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Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation


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This chapter from the Economic History of Byzantium (Washington DC 2002) provides a still useful status questionis on Byzantine coinage and money from the seventh to the fifteenth century It is available on For information on coinage in the sixth century see in the same EHB The sixth-century economy, vol. 1, p. 171-220 (CM and J.-P. Sodini)
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This is an extract from:
The Economic History of Byzantium:
From the Seventh through the Fifteenth Century
Angeliki E. Laiou, Editor-in-Chief
Scholarly Committee
Charalambos Bouras
Cécile Morrisson
Nicolas Oikonomides
Constantine Pitsakis
Published by
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection
in three volumes as number 39 in the series
Dumbarton Oaks Studies
© 2002 Dumbarton Oaks
Trustees for Harvard University
Printed in the United States of America
Part Five
Economic Institutions and the State
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation
´cile Morrisson
´o toi
´nun tou
´twn th
´wn sunthrou
´ntwn Ôhgemoni
´an, ajxiwma
´twn fhmi
´twn, kai
´tino" e
xw tri
´tou, e
mfrono" peri
`tau'ta ejpistasi
´a" kai
`tou' logismv'
crh'sqai peri
`" dianemh
Michael Psellos, Chronographie, ed. Renauld, 1:132
The two pillars of Byzantine rule (dignities and riches) celebrated by Michael Psellos
at the beginning of his lengthy exposition concerning Constantine Monomachos and
his prodigal ways, which he considered with hindsight to have started the crisis that
came at the end of the eleventh century, are only the two sides of one and the same
source of power: wealth. This wealth was distributed to those who held dignities and
offices and was stored in the imperial treasury mainly in monetary form, although
some types of silk and other luxury items, the product of imperial monopolies or work-
shops, served to complement and sometimes substitute for imperial payments. In other
words, they were quasi-money.
In any case, coinage may be considered the basic form of money in Byzantium, given
therelatively limited role played by credit. Credit certainly existed: archival docu-
ments, papyri and praktika, and literary sources show how it developed during the sixth
and seventh centuries (consumer credit, of course, as well as some forms of credit
transfer implying delays in payment), persisted during the middle Byzantine period
(e.g., maritime loans), and increased in scope from the thirteenth century on.
banking and bankers, and Byzantine businessmen in general, were not as primitive as
has sometimes been implied and were able to take on the not inconsiderable role of
granting credits to individuals and, possibly, the state, on theoccasion of tax collection.
Thus Patrikiotes, who made a fortune as a tax collector,was able to place 100,000
hyperpyra and movable goods to the value of 40,000 hyperpyra at John Kantakouze-
nos’ disposal in 1341, to “complete and even increase the fiscalresources destined for
This chapter was translated by Sarah Hanbury Tenison.
See below, 943.
See, for instance, POxy 1908, line 17 (6th or 7th century), POxy 2010, line 1 (618); G. Dagron,
“The Urban Economy, Seventh–Twelfth Centuries,EHB 434–38; N. Oikonomides, Hommes d’affaires
grecs et latins a
`Constantinople (Paris, 1979), 54–68.
However, these “money-men” were not in a position to effect a signifi-
cant increase in the monetary mass or thevelocity of coin circulation. Thus we cannot
speak of bank money, which is scarcely surprising, given that it developed late in the
European economies as well.
Consequently the predominance of coinage, in Byzantium as in the other medieval
economies, entailed a certain lack of flexibility in the adjustment of the supply to the
demand for means of payment. Nevertheless, thanks to its experience inherited from
the Roman tradition and to a degree of sophistication in its financialacumen (though
we should be wary of attributing to the Byzantines the will and ability to conduct what
we would call monetary policy);
the Byzantine Empire was capable of making a du-
rable monetary system function for more than a thousand years, from Constantine to
1453, and afortiori during the nine centuries considered here, because of its relative
flexibility. The transformations to this system enabled it to adapt, to some extent, to a
context that was evolving in response to numerous negative factors (such as political
and military events involving increased expenditure, the loss of tax returns and, pos-
sibly, of access to sources of precious metals) as well as positive ones (conquests that
secured increased resources, treasure, followed by tribute and mineral products, peri-
ods of peace that provided security and favored a degree of growth) and, finally, that
was influenced by international monetary movements. In fact, money was both prod-
uct and instrument of a complex and developed financial and fiscal organization that
made a powerful contribution to the economic integration of a huge territory, as it had
done in the Roman period, as well as enabling a minimum of exchanges to persist even
during the darkest periods of the empire’s history.
Ibegin by examining matters connected with the money supply, meaning the condi-
tions of its production and the evolution of the Byzantine monetary system, as well as
its relations with contemporary coinages and, in the second part, issues relating to
demand, meaning the elements and evolution of the circulation of money, the degree
of monetization, as well as the internal and external diffusion of the coinage. This
particular line of inquiry is not anachronistic, provided every variation and restriction
imposed by the historical context and the way it evolved is brought to bear on the
analysis. I have tried to do this, while asking the reader to bear in mind that what
follows applies, mutatis mutandis, within a medieval environment. As John Hicks has
emphasized, economics can supply a vision of the logical processes at work in history,
910 CE
Ioannis Cantacuzeni eximperatoris Historiarum libri quattuor, ed. L. Schopen, 3 vols. (Bonn, 1828–29),
2:59, 62 (III. 8) (hereafter Kantakouzenos): tai'" ejk tw'n dhmosi
´wn ajpotetagme
´nai" aujtoi'" proso
´doi" ta
´ponta ajnaplhrw'nh
Bank money (scrip) played a very limited role for a long time in modern economies; it only
developed in France, for example, in the mid-19th century and at a very slow rate (from 8.9% of total
monetary stocks in 1847 to 12% in 1873 and 45% in 1914). F. Caron, Histoire e
´conomique de la France,
XIXe–XXe sie
`cles (Paris, 1981), 56.
For Byzantine knowledge of monetary matters, see A. E. Laiou, “Economic and Noneconomic
Exchange,EHB 693–96.
at the very least forthose questions that can be treated in terms of statistical uniformity,
eveninthe absence of numerical data.
The Money Supply
Monetary Production and Its Administrative Organization
The production and output of coins were dictated by the needs of the public finances
and were organized within the framework ofthe fiscal administration, as M. Hendy has
demonstrated in several works, summarized in his Studies in the Byzantine Monetary Econ-
omy in 1985.
Tables 1–3 in the text sum up the different stages of this organization.
The main features of the administrative organization of monetary production were
first established by Diocletian and Constantine and were still in existence at the begin-
ning of the seventh century. Minting (Table 1 and Fig. 1) was one of the important func-
tions of the comes sacrarum largitionum, and, until Justinians reign, the procurators of
the mints remained under his authority.
Gold and silver minting was restricted to the
mint ofthecomitatus, in effect, the one in the capital, and was delegated to mints in
theprefectures of Illyricum, Italy, and Africa. The comitatus’ theoretical monopoly was
noted on the inscription of the solidus and its fractions, which were invariably (apart
from afew exceptions)
marked with the stamp
(Con[stantinopoli] ob[ryziacus]:
fine gold solidus of Constantinople). For a long time, this uniform mark impeded or de-
layedthe identification of these provincial issues, for which purpose numismatists re-
lied on stylistic analysis, notably the comparison with the bronze coinage bearing the
mark of its provincial mint, in conjunction with the study of provenances. Our infor-
mation in this field has advanced regularly since P. Grierson and J. Lafaurie began
their pioneering studies in the 1960s, to the synthesis presented by W. Hahn in Moneta
Imperii Byzantini (MIB) and the corpus on Thessalonike by M. Metcalf and on Carthage
by C. Morrisson in Studies in Early Byzantine Gold Coinage (1988).
The Thessalonike mint
production, which was continuous between the late fifth and early seventh centuries
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 911
J. Hicks, ATheory of Economic History (Oxford, 1969), 2–5.
M. F. Hendy, The Economy, Fiscal Administration, and Coinage of Byzantium (Northampton, 1989),
arts. 4–8; idem, Studies in the Byzantine Monetary Economy c. 300–1450 (Cambridge, 1985), 371–447.
R. Delmaire, Largesses sacre
´es et resprivata: L’aerarium impe
´rial et son administration du IVe au VIe
`cle (Rome, 1989).
disappeared from solidi of Thessalonike from Zeno’s reign on. A unique solidus
of Justinian in Carthage bears the mark LFR[ikh]. Other coins of Justinian with the mark
are known, as is a rare solidus of Justin II with LL OB.
The three volumes of W. Hahn, Moneta Imperii Byzantini (Vienna, 1973–81) (hereafter MIB), and
idem, Money of the Incipient Byzantine Empire (Anastasius–Justinian I) (Vienna, 1999), constitute the best
available discussion, although there is no agreement over some identifications (e.g., the attribution
of solidi to Cyprus or Kherson). Cf. C. Morrisson, RN, 6th ser., 16 (1974): 185–90; 17 (1975): 196–99;
25 (1983): 217–25, or S. Bendall, The Celator, October 1989:
,with regard to ideas
adopted by Hahn in his introduction to Studies in Early Byzantine Gold, ed. W. Hahn and W. E. Metcalf
(New York, 1988).
under Herakleios, has been partly individualized, thanks to a large find discovered at
Thessalonike in 1948.
Carthage began to strike a gold coinage in 537/8, four years
after the reconquest, as has been established by numerous local finds. It continued
until the fall of the city in 695. Sicilian issues were outside the framework of the prefec-
tures and subsequently of the exarchates. Though clearly individualized from the time
of Constans II on, they were in fact earlier, as the Monte Judica hoard suggests, which
allows us to push the date of the first minting of solidi to the reign of Justin II, at
In Spain, the minting of the rare debased tremisses, which is known for the
912 CE
M. Oeconomides and J. Touratsoglou, “The 1948 Thessaloniki Hoard of 6th-Century Byzantine
Coins: A Contribution to the Study of the Mint of Thessaloniki,Numismatica e Antichita
Quaderni Ticinesi 8 (1979): 289–312.
W. Hahn and N. Fairhead, “The Monte Judica Hoard and the Sicilian Moneta Auri under Justin-
ian I and Justin II,” in Early Byzantine Gold (as above, note 10), 29–38.
Table 1
Monetary Production at the Beginning of the Seventh Century
Administrative District Mints Metals
Prefecture/Exarchate Diocese/Province (temporary mint) Minted
East Thrace —
Constantinople Constantinople AV, (AR), AE
Pontos Nikomedeia AE (629/30)
Asia Kyzikos AE (629–630)
Orient Antioch AE (610)
(Isauria) (Seleukia) AE (612–618)
Egypt Alexandria AE (646)
Illyricum Dacia —
Macedonia Thessalonike AV, AE (629–630)
Africa Africa Carthage AV, AR, AE (533–695)
(transferred to Cagliari) AV, AE (695–720)
(Cartagena) AV (ca. 550–ca. 625)
Italy Italy Ravenna AV, AR, AE
Rome Rome AV, AR, AE
(Quaestor sacri palatii/ Sicily Catania AV, AE
Comes sacri
(Quaestura exercitus) (Cyprus) (Constantia) AE (626–629)
Kherson AE (658/9)
Note: AE copper; AR silver; AV gold.
(ca. 550-ca. 624)
( 629)
( 646)
( 629)
( 629)
( 610)
(6th and early 7th centuries)
Temporary mints
Permanent mints
( 751)
( 776)
(9th c.)
(late 7th—9th century)
(829 )
1a. Byzantine mints, 6th and early 7th centuries
1b. Byzantine mints, late 7th–9th century
2. The debasement of the Byzantine gold and silver coinages (after C. Morrisson, Monnaie et finances
à Byzance: Analyses, techniques [Aldershot, 1994], art. IV, p. 300)
3. The different processes of debasement of gold coinage at Byzantium (after Morrisson,
Monnaie, art. X, p. 280, fig. 3)
4. The last debasement of the hyperpyron (1222–1354) (after Morrisson, Monnaie, art. IV, p. 310)
Dots indicate the values (in carats) given by Pachymeres and Pegolotti (the coin names given by the
latter are shown vertically). Shaded areas show the range of values from analyses. “Th” and the
dotted lines below it are the slightly higher values measured on hyperpyra attributed to Thessalonike.
5. The fineness of the gold coinage at Syracuse (642–879) (after Morrisson, Monnaie, art. X, p. 280,
fig. 2)
6. Index (or frequency index) of monetary finds on various sites. On these and the following graphs,
(Figs. 6.1–6.15) the figures on the vertical axis indicate the annual rate of loss (number of coins found
during each period). Source: C. Morrisson in Hommes et richesses dans l’Empire byzantin, 2 vols. (Paris, 1989–
91), 2: 302–3, or original graphs by the author and D. Giovagnoli.
6.1. Monetary finds from Aphrodisias
6.2. Monetary finds from Pergamon
6.3. Monetary finds from Albania (based on data from H. Spahiu, Monedha bizantine të shkekujve
VXIII, të zbulurara në territorin e Shqïpërisë, Iliria 9/10 [197980]: 353421)
6.4. Monetary finds from Sardis
6.5. Monetary finds from Athens
6.6. Monetary finds from Constantinople (St. Polyeuktos)
(St. Polyeuktos)Constantinople
6.7. Monetary finds from Priene
6.8. Monetary finds from Ephesos
6.9. Monetary finds from Corinth
Arabs take Syracuse (878)
6.10. Monetary finds from Sicily (Source: see n. 140, pp. 95758)
6.11. Monetary finds from Pernik (based on data from I. Iurukova in I. Changova et al., Pernik, 2 vols.
[Sofia, 198183], 1: 21861; 2: 10276)
6.12. Monetary finds from Preslav (based on data from I. Jordanov in D. Angelov et al., Pliska Preslav,
5 vols. [Sofia 197987], 4: 20714)
6.13. Monetary finds from Turnovo (based on data from K. Dochev, Moneti i parichno obreschenie
v Trnovo XIIXIV [Veliko Turnovo, 1992]
6.14. Monetary finds from Calabria and Apulia (based on data from G. Guzzetta, Per la Calabria
bizantina: Primo censimento dei dati numismatici, in Calabria bizantina: Istituzioni civile e topografia
storica [Reggio, Calabria, 1986], 25180)
6.15. Monetary finds from Antioch
reigns of Justinian, Maurice, Phokas, and Herakleios, probably ceased when Cartagena
fell to the Visigoths in 615.
The age of Herakleios was very troubled, resulting in new temporary military mints
that struck a bronze coinage to meet the needs of the troops, in 609–610 at Cyprus
and Alexandretta (Alexandria ad Issum),
in 613–14 in Jerusalem, in 615–619 in Isau-
ria, and again in Cyprus in 629. The folles series with immobilized or blundered mint-
marks has been convincingly shown to be die-linked to organized issues from 610 to
630 under Persian rule.
Whatever the nature of the mint authority, the existence of
these more or less regular folles, and of numerous imitations, of the Herakleios type,
then of that of Constans II, as well as countermarks with Herakleios’ monogram ap-
plied in Syria-Palestine during the years around 626–662, all witness to the vitality of
money circulation and demand in the region. It is not impossible that these require-
ments were met, successively or alternatively, first by the Byzantine authorities and
then, after the Arab conquest, by the cities or other administrative bodies, which con-
tinued to do so until the onset of a bilingual Arab-Byzantine coinage ca. 680 or later,
followed by Abd al-Malik’s reformed coinage in 697.
The disappearance of the sacred largesses can be dated to 610; this, together with
the devolution of its previous prerogatives to the sekreta of different logothetes, brought
the production of money under the authority of the vestiarion. The reference, in 899,
to an a
rcwn th'" caragh'" (master of the mint) found in the kletorologion of Philotheos
places him among this offikion’s staff. The precious metal was probably smelted in the
crusocei'on mint, whose archon was dependent on the sekreton of the eidikon. This official
canbeidentified with certainty with the crusoeyhth
´"attested to by Philotheos and
earlier, in 842–843, by the Uspenskii taktikon. Finally, the zygostates, the controller of
theweight and quality of the imperial coinage, was dependent on the office of the sa-
These few data apply to the capital, whose production was intended to supply the
eastern themes (Asia Minor and the Balkans), which constituted the empire’s heart and
principal support. Thus Constantinople alone supplied a large area with both bronze
and precious metals (see Fig. 1b). This centralization was broken only very partially
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 913
Hahn (MIB 2:86–87) rejects the attribution proposed by Philip Grierson and assigns this issue
to Alexandria. In the absence of known provenances, it is impossible to decide the matter.
H. Pottier, Le monnayage en Syrie sous l’occupation perse/Coinage in Persian Syria (610–630), with a
historical introduction by C. Foss, Cahiers Ernest-Babelon 8 (Paris, forthcoming).
C. Morrisson, “La monnaie en Syrie byzantine,” in Arche
´ologie et histoire de la Syrie, vol. 2, De la
´riode perse a
`la pe
´riode byzantine, ed. J.-M. Dentzer and W. Orthmann (Saarbruck, 1989), 191–204;
eadem, “Le monnayage omeyyade et l’histoire administrative et e
´conomique de la Syrie,” in La Syrie
de Byzance a
`l’Islam, VIIe–VIIIe sie
`cles, ed. P. Canivet and J.-P. Rey-Coquais (Damascus, 1992), 309–18
(commentary by M. Bates, 319–21). This has recently attracted growing interest, and many articles
have appeared. For an updated survey, see C. Foss, Introduction to Coinage in the Near East in the Seventh
Century (Washington, D.C., forthcoming).
N. Oikonomides, Les listes de pre
´ance byzantines des IXe et Xe sie
`cles (Paris, 1972), 315–17. In the
12th century the smelting workshop was also the place where coins were struck. Does the following
definition in the Souda (ed. A. Adler [Leipzig, 1935]), 4:833) refer to these dual functions? Crusoeyh-
tei'onÚ e
nqa cwneu
´ousi kai
yousi to
`n cruso
whenthe two provincial mints at Kherson and Thessalonikeresumed activity with
thecreation of new themes and the reorganization of former districts under Emperor
Theophilos. Kherson began issuing cast bronze coins with the imperial monogram at
the end of the reign of Michael III. This series with its particularly easily recognized
fabric continued until Basil II.
Other bronzes of Michael II and Theophilos, in a
fairly easily recognizable style, can very probably be attributed to Thessalonike. Other
folles of Basil I and Leo VI, sharing some traits with Sicilian issues, have been convinc-
ingly attributed, on the basis of local provenances, to Reggio where the mint of Syra-
cuse was likely transferred after 879.
Hendy has suggested also attributing to Thessa-
lonike the folles that bear the name of Constantine X and his successors until 1092,
whichwould have been struck by the provincial mint while Constantinople was striking
anonymous folles. However, this thesis has yet to be confirmed by research into the
In the empire’s last western possessions, the situation contrasted diametrically with
Table 2
Centralization and Fragmentation of Monetary Production
(Mid-7th–11th Centuries)
Administrative Mints Metals
District Theme (temporary mint) Minted
East Thrace Constantinople AV, AR, AE
Macedonia (est. 824) (Thessalonike?) AE (9th, 11th centuries)
Kherson (est. ca. 832) Kherson AE (842–989?)
West R ome AV, AR, AE
Ravenna AV, AR, AE
Naples AV (ca. 660–842)
Syracuse AV, AE (642–879)
(transferred to Reggio) AV, AE (879–912)
Note: AE copper; AR silver; AV gold.
914 CE
A. Anokhin, Monetnoe delo Khersonesa (IV v. do n.e.–XII v. n.e.) (Kiev, 1977) (The coinage of Kher-
sonesus: 4th Century
–12th Century
) BAR International Series 69 (Oxford, 1980). The chro-
nology by I. V. Sokolova, Monety i pechati vizantiiskogo Khersonesa (Leningrad, 1983), is preferable.
Thessalonica mint, see D. M. Metcalf, “The Folles of Michael II and Theophilus before his Re-
form,HBN 21 (1967): 28–29 (nos. 30–36); idem, “The Reformed Folles of Theophilus: Their Styles
and Localisation,” ANSMN 14 (1968): 132 (groups S and Z). Cf. Hendy, Studies, 423–25, with the ear-
lier bibliography. See V. Penna, “Numismatic Circulation in Corinth from 976 to 1204,” EHB 655–58.
Reggio mint, see D. Castrizio, “La zecca bizantina di Reggio dopo la conquista araba di Siracusa,”
Akten des XII. Internationaler Numismatischer Kongr(Berlin, 2000).
Hendy, Studies, 428. He now attributes these folles to the moneta publica in Constantinople (DOC
4.1: 22–28).
this relative centralization; indeed, the fragmentation in Italy is explained by the isola-
tion of the various regions following the Lombard conquest. Stylistic analysis shows
that several groups of gold coinages existed; attribution is not always easy given the
absence of a sufficient number of secure provenances. However, by comparing these
gold pieces with bronze coins bearing mint marks and the evidence provided by some
hoards, one has been able to identify with increasing confidence the mintings of the
main mints, Ravenna and Syracuse, as well as those of Rome and Naples. Their partic-
ular metrology, notably the reduction in fineness, and consequently in weight, which
affected them from the seventh century on—coinciding, in Sicily, for instance, with
thecreation of the theme ca. 692–695—could point to the growing regionalization and
autonomy of local finances, left to their own resources. In Rome, too, the substitution
of the emperor’s or the mint’s monogram by the papal monogram on the reverse of
the silver coinage at the end of the seventh century shows how the pope’s control over
the operation and financing of the local coinage was growing.
Very little is known about the way money minting was organized during the age of
theKomnenoi, and the outline above is only a hypothesis—albeit a plausible one—
constructed by Hendy while comparing numismatic classification with the known ad-
ministrative structures. It is noteworthy that the imperial mint and crusoplu
´sia situ-
ated in the Great Palace, remained in operation during this period, as the place where
precious metals were smelted and purified, and where they were kept, not only in coin
form. According to evidence provided by Niketas Choniates, the crowd of rioters who
sacked the palace when Andronikos I was deposed in 1185 found wealth amounting
to “12 kentenaria of gold, 30 kentenaria of silver, and 200 kentenaria of bronze pieces,
Table 3
Monetary Production from 1081 to 1204
Administrative Mint Metals
District (temporary mint) Minted
Thessalonike-Strymon-Boleron Thessalonike AV, El, B, AE (ca. 1092?–
ca. 1190?)
Hellas-Peloponnesos Thebes? AE (ca. 1092?–ca. 1190?)
Macedonia-Thrace (Philippopolis?) AV, B (ca. 1092?)
Note: AE copper; AV gold; B billon; El electrum.
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 915
C. Morrisson, “Nouvelles recherches sur l’histoire mone
´taire byzantine: Evolution compare
la monnaie d’or a
`Constantinople et dans les provinces d’Afrique et de Sicile,” in Monnaie et finances
`Byzance: Analyses, techniques (Aldershot, 1994), art. 10, pp. 274–79 (Sicily), and eadem, “La trouvaille
de monnaies d’argent byzantines de Rome (VIIe–VIIIe sie
`cles): Analyses et chronologie,” ibid., art.
12 (Rome).
not including unminted metal.
These were the very workshops in the Great Palace
that always attracted “cupidity on account of the gold piled up there” (dia
`n ejpise-
´non ejkei'qi cruso
´n), and that Nicholas Mesarites describes in rhetorical terms
in his account of John Komnenos’ attempted usurpation in 1201. His text does provide
some description of the semi-industrial nature of a mass-production process that was
effected by “men in blackened clothes, with dusty feet and faces covered in sweat,” who
worked “for whole months, even years, night and day to watch over and control the
flux and reflux of the gold,” or who, “hidden in their dwellings, deprived of the sun,
work unceasingly with hammer and anvil.
The increase in particularism and provincial disputes during the twelfth century
gave rise to issues of coins by mints of a more or less ephemeral nature, created ex
nihilo. During the age of Alexios I, the Gabras family struck folles at Trebizond, some
bearing the emperor’s effigy, but most of them anonymous. Niketas Choniates tells us
that Theodore Mankaphas “struck a silver nomisma and had his name engraved on
it.” Roughly produced trachea bearing the effigy of Theodore, which can be attributed
to Philadelphia in the years 1188–90, have been found in Asia Minor, Bulgaria, and
northern Greece. The most important issues of coins were those of Cyprus by Isaac
Komnenos (1184–91). The wealth of the island, together with the length of the usurpa-
tion, explains why these are so varied and abundant; all the denominations are repre-
sented, with the exception of the hyperpyron, which may have been excluded on ac-
count of some residual respect for the capital’s preeminence.
The Latin Empire very probably retained the Great Palace mint, given that, when
theLatin embassy came to negotiate a peace settlement, Michael VIII stipulated that
the revenues from the kommerkion and the mint be divided in half.
Under the Palaiolo-
goi, minting presumably remained within the domain of the vestiarion and its prokaqh
It was divided between the two mints, that of Thessalonike and that of the
capital, which functioned until 1453, as proven by documents that mention the issues
of Constantine XI, which were intended to pay the towns defenders, and by the pres-
ence of these silver coins in a recently discovered hoard.
The production of bronze
coins in Thessalonike was first identified by T. Bertele
`in L’imperatore alato in 1951, and
916 CE
Nicetae Choniatae Historia, ed. J. L. van Dieten (Berlin–New York, 1975), 347 (hereafter Choni-
ates): diarpa
´zousin . . . oJpo
´sa crh
´mata eu
ranto para
`toi'" Crusioplusi
´oi" e
ti tamieuo
´mena (h
«san de
neu tw'nmh
´nwn eij" no
´misma uJlw'n crusi
´ou kenthna
´ria dw
´deka, ajrguri
´ou tria
´konta kai
`tou' ejk
calkou' ko
´mmato" diako
Nicholas Mesarites, Die Palastrevolution des Johannes Komnenos, ed. A. Heisenberg (Wu
1907), 25–26. C. Morrisson, “Moneta, caragh
´,zecca:Les ateliers byzantins et le palais impe
´rial,” in I
luoghi della moneta: Le sede delle zecche dall’antichita
`moderna, ed. L. Travaini (Milan, 2001).
Hendy, Studies, 438–39; S. Bendall and C. Morrisson, “The
´odore Pierre, The
´odore Branas ou
´odore Mankaphas?” RN, 6th ser., 36 (1994): 170–81.
Georgii Acropolitae Opera, ed. A. Heisenberg, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1903), 1:163: ejqe
´lw tou
`" ejn th'
´lei Lati
´nou" pro
´wn telei'n ajrch
`n meri
´da me
`n ejk tou' kommerki
`n hJmi
´seian kajk tou' cruseyhtei
´ou aujtw'nth
`n ajna
´logon wJsau
´tw" ei
Hendy, Studies, 440–47.
S. Bendall, “Un tre
´sor de monnaies de Constantin XI,RN, 6th ser., 33 (1991): 134–42.
S. Bendall has attributed a series of relatively rare hyperpyra and basilika, bearing the
names of Michael VIII or Andronikos II, to this mint.
In Constantinople, production
may have been split between two mints: the imperial mint in the Great Palace linked,
as under the Komnenoi, with the imperial treasury and the vestiarion, striking mainly
gold and silver that had been received as taxes; and a mint that struck low-value coins
or, possibly, silver brought by the public.
In the Libro dei conti of Badoer, a reference
to the Greek banker Constantine Kritoboulos describes him as dal bancho or da la zecha,
and business deals concluded with him often involved silver, whether minted or not,
rather suggesting that the banker was connected specifically with this “public” work-
shop, the last avatar of the early Byzantine moneta publica.
The administrative organization of Byzantine mints presents specific features that
remained constant during its whole history, and which it is important to stress. Unlike
in the West, there were in Byzantium no concessions of minting rights to local authori-
ties (counts, bishops, religious establishments). Supervision of the mint and its possible
profits always belonged to the emperor, though he had probably farmed out the mint
or part of it by the fourteenth century. Thus the government was certainly capable of
controlling, if not the total money supply, at least the output of new types, which made
up a vital part of it. However, this did not implythat the emperor or his advisers were
capable of conducting a monetary policy in the modern meaning of the term; he was
probably content with adapting the quantities struck, their metal content and nominal
value, to both his resources in matie
`res—asFrench authors in the eighteenth century
designated bullion—and his financial needs. The frequently quoted passage in Psellos’
Chronographia is perfectly explicit in this respect, referring to Michael VII’s accom-
plishedwisdom and experience of business, with his “thorough grasp of the whole
system of taxation, of revenues and public expenditure, of the incomes paid from the
exchequer and the percentage of income paid back to the treasury in the form of taxes.
He knew all about the mint, the exact weight of a stater [i.e., a nomisma], how a touch-
stone functioned, what proportion of precious metal was included in every gold coin.
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 917
S. Bendall, “Palaeologan Gold Coins from the Mint of Thessalonika,Gazette numismatique suisse
32 (1982): 15–21; idem, “Thessalonican Hyperpyra of Michael VIII?” ibid., 40–41; idem, “A Thessa-
lonican Hyperpyron of Andronicus II and Michael IX?” NCirc 89 (1981): 158; idem, “A Palaeologan
Silver Coinage for Thessalonica,NCirc 103 (1995): 139. Cf. S. Bendall, APrivate Collection of Palaeolo-
gan Coins (Wolverhampton, 1988), nos. 61, 206–9 (hereafter PCPC).
Bendall, PCPC, 62, links the existence of two very different groups of Manuel II stavrata to the
two-mints hypothesis put forward by Hendy (Studies, 260 n. 15).
Il libro dei conti di Giacomo Badoer, ed. U. Dorini and T. Bertele
`(Rome, 1956), 152, line 14, per resto
d’arzento; 179, line 2, 616 perperi grievi; 179, line 37, and 204, line 25, livre 10 de stavrati grievi, etc.;
Hendy, “Aspects of Coin Production and Fiscal Administration in the Late Roman and Early Byzan-
tine Period,” in Economy (as above, note 7), art. 5, pp. 131–34, and “The Administration of Mints and
Treasuries, 4th to 7th Centuries, with an Appendix on the Production of Silver Plate,” art. 6, p. 6.
Michael Psellos, Chronographie, ed. E. Renauld, 2 vols. (Paris, 1926), 2:173: th
´ntetw'n stath
´an kai
`nth'" sta
´qmh" ijsorropi
´an kai
`" rJopa
`" kai
´mmata. th
´ntecrusi'tin o
pw" ejrga
zoito kai
`tw'n crusw'n carakth
´rwn oJpo
´sa e
kasto" me
´tra th'" kaqara'"u
lh" e
coi. The translation is by
E. R. A. Sewter, Fourteen Byzantine Rulers (Baltimore, Md., 1979), 368.
TheEvolution of the Monetary System
General Features Ever since the creation of the Byzantine monetary system by Con-
stantine in 312, its pivot had been the solidus-nomisma, a real coinage whose nominal
value was equal to its intrinsic value, as is proven by the Theodosian Code,
gated in 325, which prescribed, respecting the payment of taxes:
If anyone wants to pay in solidi, let him pay for one ounce, seven (6) solidi of fine
gold (auri cocti), eachoffive scruples (scripula), printed with our effigies, and natu-
rally fourteen (12) for two ounces, thus bringing the entire sum due. The same
method (eadem ratione, meaning 1 solidus 4scruples) must be observed if anyone
brings some matter (metal), so that he may seem to have given solidi. Let the
gold that is brought be received on scales balanced (aequa lance)byequal weights
(libramentis paribus).
The Justinianic Code reiterates these instructions, while abolishing the technical in-
structions about the weight and the honest way of holding the scales: “That the gold,
brought by taxpayers, if anyone wants to pay it in solidi or in matter, be received on
correct scales (aequa lance) and with equal weights (libramentis paribus).
of weighing gold money persisted throughout the period and is still attested by Psellos
in his Synopsis ton nomon, in which he distinguishes between the different modes of
exchange: “by weight, things like gold, silver, copper; by number, small change (noum-
moi leptoi); and by measure, wine.
Indeed, it is only in this context that the crisis
provoked by the introduction of a light nomisma, the tetarteron, can be understood.
The just weight was, in fact, one of the conditions for the coinage’s function as legal
tender. The inscription on the exagion in the Cabinet des Me
´dailles, DIKAIOCCTAQ-
MOCTTRACEOCVPERPVROV (11th–12th centuries),
echoes, if echo were needed,
a long juridical tradition. In 367 it was made obligatory for sellers and buyers of solidi
to accept these coins “modo ut debiti ponderis sint et speciei probae;” in 379 a re-
minder went out about “the uniform price of all the pure gold solidi” (“obryziacorum
omnium solidorum uniforme pretium”), obligations that were reiterated by the Justini-
anic Code,
whereas in 445, Novel 16 of Valentinian III also punished with death
918 CE
Hendy, Studies, 329–30; J.-P. Callu, “De
´nombrement et pese
´e: Le sou the
´odosien,Bulletin de la
¸aise de numismatique 34 (1979): 611–12, distinguishes the counted and weighed solidi from
the end of the 4th century from the Constantinian solidi, which were simply counted.
CTh 12.7.1. This text presents many difficulties and has given rise to an abundant literature. On
weights and balances, see C. Entwistle, “Byzantine Weights,EHB 611–14.
CIC, CI 10.73.1.
Psellos, Synopsis to
¯n nomo
¯n, PG 122:956.
V. Laurent,“Le ‘juste poids’ de l’hyperpyron trachy,Congre
`s international de numismatique, Paris,
1953, Actes (Paris, 1957), 299–307.
CIC, CI 11.11.1 and 3. Hendy, Studies, 365, translates “required weight and honest material.” I
think that “species”refers to the appearance of the piece and, basically, to its type. It was through
visual examination of the piece that the money changer had to discern whether the type was falsified,
and thus whether the coin was of poor alloy. Cf. J. Andreau, La vie financie
`re dans le monde romain: Les
´tiers de manieurs d’argent (IVe sie
`cle av. J.-C.–IIIe sie
`cle ap. J.-C.) (Rome, 1987), 524.
anyone who dared “refuse or reduce a gold solidus of good weight.” The Basilics re-
newedintheir turn the dispositions of CI 11.11.1 and 3, and Novel 52 of Leo VI stated
yet again that “every type of coin will conserve both its value and currency, so long as
it comes from an authenticated mint, with an unadulterated fineness and an exact
weight” (ajparapoi
´hton th
`n morfh
con kai
lhn ajki
´bdhlon kai
`n oJlkh
Though weight was an indispensable element, it was not the only one, being obvi-
ously indissolubly linked to fineness (the precious metal content). Conveniently enough,
this is themeaning of the mark OB which features on Byzantine gold coins between
363 and 720 in Constantinople (and until the mid-8th century in Italy), since it recalls
both weight (OB 72, that is, the number of solidi struck to a pound, and fineness
(OB obryzum, or refined gold). The purity, restored by the reforms of Valentinian
(367/8) to a level higher than 99%, the maximum that could be achieved by the proce-
dures of the age, retained this extremely high level until the beginning of the reign of
Anastasios, after which it fluctuated only slightly. At the turn of the sixth century, gold
money had an average fineness of 98% and thus perfectly deserved its qualification as
holokottinos (oJloko
This hybrid term was developed from theexpression aurum
coctum and occurs very frequently in early Byzantine documents, aswell as subsisting
in current speech until the eleventh century, at which date it began to be replaced by
the term hyperpyron (uJpe
´rpuron, “cooked, refined by fire”).
Weight and fineness were joined by another element, the authenticity of the stamp,
which served to guarantee the other two. Thus the Book of the Eparch made it obligatory
on the trapezites to accept at its theoretical value of 24 obols the miliaresion to
`n basiliko
con carakth'ra kai
Afew rare texts apply an originally Coptic qualification—oJloko
´ttino generally asso-
ciated with gold—to silver coinage, which, as we will see, often retained a high level of
purity, although its intrinsic value was not strictly aligned to its nominal value. Along-
side this “real”-value gold coinage and a slightly overvalued silver coinage, there was
also a bronze coinage of a fiduciary nature that made up the second specific feature
of the monetary system. In fact, Byzantium had always known one or more bronze de-
nominations, more precisely, copper (in most cases), billon (copper alloy with a low
silver content), and even lead (the nominal value of which was generally higher than
its intrinsic value), whereby the monetary ratio gold:copper generally varied between
1:630 and 1:924, as against a metallic ratio on the order of 1:1,200.
This type of
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 919
Basilics 54.18.1 and 3; Novel 52 of Leo VI.
Obryzum: see “Me
´thodes d’essai et d’affinage des alliages aurife
`res dans l’Antiquite
´et au Moyen
Age,” in C. Morrisson et al., L’or monnaye
´,vol. 1, Purification et alte
´rations de Rome a
`Byzance, Cahiers
Ernest-Babelon 2 (Paris, 1985) 2, 48, with references. Cf. M. K. Papathanassiou, “Metallurgy and
Metalworking Techniques,EHB 124. On the purity of early Byzantine gold, see “Aureus obryziacus,
90–108, and “La monnaie d’or byzantine a
`Constantinople purification et modes d’alte
´rations (491–
1354),” in Morrisson et al., op. cit. 121–24. Holokottinos: see R. Bagnall, Currency and Inflation in Fourth-
Century Egypt (Atlanta, 1985), 15, 16.
“If it [the coin] is of good alloy and bears the authentic imperial effigy.Although kibdhleu
was used most frequently to designate manipulations of the fineness, and ajki
´bdhlon for metal that
had not been debased, in this case, the adjective seems to me to apply to carakth
T. Bertele
`and C. Morrisson, Numismatique byzantine, suivie de deux e
´tudes ine
´dites sur les monnaies des
money had disappeared from the West between the sixth and the beginning of the
sixteenth centuries, but in Byzantium, on the contrary, it served to endow the whole
system with a degree of flexibility. It was undoubtedly this ability to adapt that enabled
thesystem to surmount its many crises and to keep going for centuries.
TheEvolution of the Monetary System at Constantinople Metrological characteristics
(weight, fineness) are presented in Table 4 as approximate pointers to a situation that
was often in flux, the details of which are found in the relevant reference catalogues
and studies.
The pound weight used (324.72 g) is as estimated by statisticalstudies
and confirmed by the examination of uncirculated solidi from the Szika
´ncs hoard (ca.
450). Relations between denominations of different metals are also given on an indica-
tive basis because they may have varied according to the date (e.g., the miliaresion
varied between
of the nomisma), although the surviving sources say noth-
ing about this (as was the case with the follis in the 7th century, for which we are
reduced to combining values in carats recorded on papyri with its metrological evolu-
Large sums were expressed in multiples of 100 pounds (kentenarion, some-
times called talanton, from the original value of 100 Attic mnai). In the tenth to elev-
enth centuries, the talanton was synonymous with the pound.
Table 4 presents only a sort of snapshot, giving an orderly picture of a situation that
often fluctuated, with reforms being frequently accompanied by overlapping exchange
rates between new and old coinages. The Byzantine monetary system had two main
features. It was first and foremost a multidenominational system. Its structure was far
more sophisticated than those of contemporary western coinages, which only featured
the silver denarius and its half fraction, the obol, at least until the commercialrevolu-
tion in the thirteenth century and the ensuing monetary evolution. It also demon-
strated a great capacity for adapting, since every major monetary crisis was followed
920 CE
´ologues (Wetteren, 1978), 112–15. C. Morrisson, “La monnaie fiduciaire a
`Byzance ou ‘vraie mon-
naie,’ ‘monnaie fiduciaire’ et ‘fausse monnaie’ a
`Byzance,Bulletin de la Socie
¸aise de numismatique
34 (1979): 612–16. For the metal composition of small change, see: P. Grierson, “Trace Elements in
Byzantine Copper Coins of the 6th and 7th Centuries,” in Dona numismatica Walter Ha
¨vernick zum 23.
Januar 1965 dargebracht (Hamburg, 1965), 29–35; B. C. M. Butler and D. M. Metcalf, “Trace Elements
in Byzantine Copper Coins,NCirc 75 (1967): 229–33; T. Padfield, “Analysis of Byzantine Copper
Coins by X-Ray Methods” (with a Numismatic Commentary by P. Grierson), in Methods of Chemical and
Metallurgical Investigation of Ancient Coinage, ed. T. Hall and D. M. Metcalf (London, 1972), 219–36;
C. King et al., “Copper-based Alloys of the Fifth Century [395–530],RN, 6th ser., 34 (1992): 54–76.
For Byzantine lead coins, see C. Morrisson, “Monnaies en plomb byzantines de la fin du VIe et du
´but du VIIe sie
`cle,RIN 83 (1981): 119–31, and eadem, “Les usages mone
´taires du plus vil des
´taux: Le plomb,” RIN 95 (1993): 79–101.
DOC, BNC, MIB, Bertele
`, CEB 2, Hendy, Studies.
C. Carcassonne, BSFN, 1974, 620: 324.72 g. Relying on earlier French metrologists’ studies from
the 16th to the early 20th century, J. Lafaurie would now put it, like Guilhermoz, at 326.34 g (J.
Lafaurie, “La livre romaine et ses modifications me
´des Antiquaires de France. Bulletin
(1993): 95–100.
C. Morrisson, “Monnaie et prix a
`Byzance du Ve au VIIe sie
`cle,” in Monnaie (as above, note 20),
art. 3, pp. 247–50.
See E. Schilbach, Byzantinische Metrologie (Munich, 1970), 173 and the 200,000 talanta of Basil
II’s hoard which cannot be kentenaria.
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 921
Table 4
The Byzantine Monetary System
(Constantinople Mint)
Roman and Byzantine metrological scale:
1 pound 12 ounces 72 solidi 288 scruples 1,728 carats (keratia) (
325 g)
1 ounce 6 solidi 24 scruples 144 carats (
27 g)
1 solidus 4scruples 24 carats (
4.5 g)
1scruple (or gramma) 6carats (
1.12 g)
1carat (or siliqua) (
0.18 g)
Seventh Century, 602–717
Solidus nomisma Semissis Tremissis Hexagram Follis Half follis Dekanoummion*
(4.50 g (2.25 g (1.50 g (6.72 g (14gto
98% Au) 98% Au) 98% Au) 96% Ag) 3g)
12312288 576 1,152
12448 96
12 4
*The decline in the weight of the follis brought about the gradual disappearance of the pentanoummion
(the last known examples are under Constantine IV, with one single example under Constantine V, DOC
Note: Ag silver; Au gold. All coins are illustrated actual size.
Eighth–Tenth Centuries
Solidus/ Carat/keration
nomisma (Semissis*) (Tremissis *) Miliaresion (money of account) Follis
(4.50 g (2.25 g (1.50 g (2.27 g to 3.0 g (from 14gto
98% Au) 98% Au) 98% Au) 98% Ag) 3 g)
123 12 (24) 288
(2) 24
(1) 12
*Very rare after 741. Last known examples under Basil I (867–886).
The dekanoummion disappeared under Constantine V, and the half follis disappeared for good under
Table 4
922 CE
Tenth–Eleventh Centuries, 963–1092
Histamenon Tetarteron Carat/keration
nomisma nomisma Miliaresion
miliaresion (money of account) Follis
(24 carats- (22 carats- (3.0 g to 2.0 g (2 g to 1.4 g (0.9 g to 0.6 g) (14gto3g)
weight) weight) of 98% to of 98% to
(4.50 g of (4.13 g 65% Ag) 61% Ag)
98% Au) 98% Au)
1121636(24) 288
3 (2) 24
(1) 12
Table 4
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 923
The Era of the Hyperpyron, 1092–1204
Hyperpyron Nomisma Aspron Carat/keration Follis Half
nomisma trachy trachy (money (money Te tarteron tetarteron
hyperpyron aspron (stamenon)ofaccount) of account) (4.0 g) (2.0 g)
(4.30 g (4.30 g; (4.30 g;
87% Au) 30 to 10% Au) 6% to 2% Ag)
13 48 (24) (288) 864 ? 1,728 ?
116(8) (96) 288 ? 576 ?
4 (2) (24) 72 ? 144 ?
2 (1) (12) 36 ? 72 ?
) (6) 18 ? 36 ?
(1) 2 4
Table 4
924 CE
The Era of the Hyperpyron, 1204–1304
Aspron trachy
Hyperpyron Trikephalon Stamenon
(4.30 g) Manuelatus Aspron trachy Tetarteron
(75 to 50% Au) (4.30 g (4.30 g) (2.20 g;
95% Ag)
Concave Concave Concave Flat
1 (12) (288) (576)
1 (24) (48)
1 (2)
Table 4
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 925
The Era of the Basilikon, 1304–1367
Basilikon (basileo Half basilikon Tornese/ Stamenon/ Assarion
Hyperpyron argyrion doukaton) basileo/(argyridion?) politikon Trakhion (tetarteron)
(2g;22mm (1.3–1.0 g (0.7 g (4.20 g) (2.1 g)
94%) 16 mm) 17 mm 24 mm 18–22 mm
(then 1.10 g) 22.5% Ag)
Concave Flat Flat Flat Concave Flat
112 24 96 384 (768)
12832 (64)
1416 (32)
1 (2)
Parentheses ( ) indicate estimated values for which there is no documentary evidence. Bold type indicates
values taken from documentary sources.
Source: C. Morrisson, in Geschichte und Kultur der Palaiologenzeit (Vienna, 1996).
Table 4
926 CE
byastabilization process that lasted for longer or shorter periods, but always for at
least a century: after the inflation of the follis and the disappearance of the hexagram
in the seventh century, came the “era of the miliaresion” (8th–10th centuries); after the
devaluation of first the gold coinage and then the silver coinage in the eleventh cen-
tury, came the “era of the hyperpyron” (12th–13th centuries); and finally, after the
fall of the gold coinage and the probable hyperinflation of the copper coinage in the
fourteenth century, came the “era of the stavraton (silver hyperpyron)” (1367–1453).
The coinage of the seventh century retained the three traditional gold denomina-
tions that had existed since the fifth century: the solidus, semissis, and tremissis, which
remained very pure (ca. 98%), as we have seen. Starting in the 680s, however, both the
gold content and the weight were reduced (to 96% and 4.36 g on average instead of
98% and 4.41 g for the period 491–668). Only half of the weight reduction was due to
thepresence in the alloy of metals less valuable and less dense than gold. In terms of
thefine gold content, the savings effected (4.20 g instead of 4.32 g) were small (2.7%),
but not negligible. It is tempting to link these savings to the transformation of the tax
system and the imperial finances that marked thedecision to abandon the structures
of late antiquity.
The sources are more revealing about the financial reasons leading to the resump-
tion of silver minting, with the creation of the hexagram in 616. The name was derived
from its weight, 6 grammata (scruples), and it was used “to pay the imperial rogai at
half the old rate.” As we know, it proved necessary in 621 to resort to the church’s
treasury to find enough precious metal to continue with this issue. If its value was
of a solidus, the gold:silver ratio would have been 1:18; the nominal value
would certainly have come very close to the metallic value. It has been supposed that
thenear-total absence of silver coinages in the East in the sixth century, as opposed to
the abundance of worked silver in the same period, was due to the prices at which
mints would buy the metal being far lower than those obtaining on the market. Con-
versely, the return to abundant issues of coins was ascribed to a more realistic value
being assigned to money.However, the quantities struck declined swiftly at the end of
Constantine IV’s reign, and the hexagram became a “ceremonial” coinage that was
struck to the solidus type, using solidus dies. Several theories have been advanced to
explain this decline and disappearance: the difference between the gold:silver ratio in
the Muslim and Byzantine worlds, which led to the flight of silver into the caliphate,
or the loss of control over regions that supplied the metal, in the Balkans due to the
Bulgarian advance and in Asia Minor due to the Arab armies and fleet.
The resump-
tion of a silver coinage on a different basis, with the miliaresion, leads us to seek, at
least in part, some internal cause, as Hendy proposed; probably an insufficient differ-
ence between the ratio of coined metals and the market ratio, similar to the one that
operated in the same way during the sixth century.
928 CE
P. Yannopoulos, L’hexagramme: Un monnayage byzantin en argent du VIe sie
`cle (Louvain-la-Neuve,
Chronicon Paschale, ed. L. Dindorf, 2 vols. (Bonn, 1832), 2:706; Theophanes, Chronographia, ed.
C. de Boor, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1883–85), 2:186 (hereafter Theophanes). Hendy, Studies, 278–79, 494–95;
A final feature of the seventh century was the constant decline in the weight of the
follis, which decreased from an average 12 g under Phokas to 3.60 g ca. 660, while its
value in carats slid from
in 621 and perhaps
ca. 660. Each particular
debasement of the weight and nominal value of the follis was related to political and
military vicissitudes.
A first attempt at restoring the coinage came under Herakleios
with the return to the norms of around
600, coinciding with his victory in 629 and
therelief that it brought to the empire’s finances; it was not followed up, however.
Constantine IV, for his part, reverted, with the folles of 527–538 and 550–565, to an
earlier weight of
of a pound (18 g) and accompanied this measure with a retariffing
of earlier specie, with the new half-folles bearing both the mark of their value K (20
nummi) and an M indicating that they were equivalent to the former folles. This mea-
sure appears to have been mainly political in nature and to fall within the context of
the Justinianic renewal sought by the emperor.
As it was, it did not survive him, and
by the end of the century the follis had fallen to its previous low weight. This lower
weight is explained by the need to strike a growing number of coins at a time when
the supply of copper was not elastic, as is demonstrated by various measures taken at
the end of the sixth and in the seventh century, such as melting down statues, occasion-
ally resorting to lead, and Constans II’s seizure of metal from the roofs of churches in
Rome. The haste with which the pieces were struck witnesses to the inflation; over-
strikes, countermarks, blanks scissored by cutting the large pieces of former times into
four.The fall in the purchasing power of low-value coinage can be followed with cer-
tainty, albeit too imperfectly, in the documents and is marked by the progressive dis-
appearance of the subdivisions of the follis; there were no nummi after Maurice, and
thelast pentanoummia were those of Constantine IV.
Leo III inaugurated the “era of the miliaresion”; this name derives from the new
silver money that was struck from 721 on, whose fabric (a large, thin flan), epigraphical
type (five lines of inscription in the field), and metrology recall those of the contempo-
raneous dirham. The miliaresion was intended, if not to copy, at least to compete with
the dirham on the political level, by confronting it with a profession of faith by the
Christianempire, under the protection of God and the Cross. Although originally
ceremonial in nature, the coinage soon exceeded this function; as early as 740 it was
being demanded in payment for the dikeraton taxthat had been created to finance the
repair work to the walls of Constantinople.
On this occasion, the coin was valued at
nomisma, though it weighed half as much as a hexagram, and its nominal value was
certainly greater than the market price for the metal. This explains why the surviving
examples are extremely irregular with regard to weight and have often been clipped,
apractice denounced in several passages in the Book of the Eparch. Attempts were made
to prevent this by adding several circles of dots to the impression on the coin. Its fidu-
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 929
P. Grierson, “The Role of Silver in the Early Byzantine Economy,” in Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-
Century Byzantium, ed. S. A. Boyd and M. M. Mango (Washington, D.C., 1992), 137–46.
C. Morrisson, “Monnaie et prix a
`Byzance du Ve au VIIe sie
`cle,” in Monnaie (as above, note 20),
art. 3, pp. 248–50.
BNC, 1:375.
Theophanes, 1:412.
ciary value certainly varied over the course of the miliaresions history and explains its
longevity (nearly four centuries): improvements to theweight have been noted, during
thereign of Theophilos (3 g) and from that of Basil I (2.98 g), as well as variations in
its nominal value. The ratio of 1 nomisma 12 miliaresia 288 folles, as confirmed
by the Palaia Logarike, occurs at the end of the eleventh century in the Glossai nomikai
and other scholia to the Basilics; it is implied in certain accounts in the Book of Ceremonies
but probably rose to 14 by the end of the tenth century.
However imperfectly we are
able to follow them, fluctuations of this kind witness to the system’s adaptable nature.
The miliaresion became the intermediary coinage par excellence in the system by
replacing the divisions of the nomisma, which had become very rare since the reign of
Constantine V and ceased under Basil I. The same simplifying process affected the
low-value copper coinages. The divisions of the follis gradually disappeared during
the eighth century, in spite of the episodic output of a half-follis scarcely distinguish-
able from the whole follis; the mark of value in nummi (M) became meaningless and
gave place, under Theophilos, to an inscription running to several lines similar to that
on the silver coinage. The result was the simplest possible trimetallic structure, with
one denomination per metal. Theappearance of one-third and two-third fractions of
the miliaresion during the 1030s was undoubtedly a response to the need to facilitate
At the end of the tenth and in the eleventh century, money underwent a profound
transformation, followed by a crisis. The devaluation affected all metals at different
dates and according to different modalities. The gold coinage experienced a decline
that can be divided into three phases, varying according to the rate and process of the
debasement (see Fig. 2 and Table 5; for the processes, see pp. 943–46 and Fig. 3).
A gradual process of devaluation can be observed straightaway, from Constan-
tine VII (914–959) to Michael IV (1034–41). During the period under considera-
tion the proportion of silver in the gold coinage showed a very slight increase (an
annual average of 0.04%). This increase was,however, almost continuous and could
correspond—though this is an overestimate—to an increase of 0.2% per year in the
money supply. It was during this first phase that Nikephoros II Phokas introduced
a lightweight nomisma called the tetarteron, which was reduced by one-twelfth (tetar-
teron means “a small quarter,” in relation to the full-weight nomisma, the histamenon).
This complex phenomenon has given rise to an abundant literature in which the
evidence provided by numismatics is compared with that supplied by historians of
thetime (Zonaras, Kedrenos).
According to the latter, “receipt of the tax was in
heavynomisma, whereas the smaller one was used for outgoing payments. Fur-
thermore, although, according to law and custom, every nomisma struck from the
930 CE
Constantine Porphyrogennetos, De cerimoniis aulae byzantinae, ed. J. J. Reiske (Bonn, 1829),
DOC 3.1:62–68; Hendy, Studies, 500–506; N. Svoronos, Recherches sur le cadastre byzantin et la fiscalite
aux XIe et XIIe sie
`cles (Athens, 1959), 80.
DOC 3.1:31–33, 37–38; 2:708–10; Hendy, Studies, 507–9.
imperial die was, saving a reduction in its weight, equal in value, the emperor made a
law granting a preferential rate to his nomisma.
According to H. Ahrweiler, this
involved withdrawing previous nomismata and an attempt at stabilizing the nomisma
at a lower weight, thus enabling the state to issue 8% more coins using the same quan-
tity of metal.
Presumably, Nikephoros II was seekinginthis way to substitute the
gradual profit derived from manipulating the level of fineness with the sudden gain
achieved simply by reducing the weight. Until ca. 1005, his successors continued, like
him, to issue lightweight nomismata, distinguishable fromhistamena only by weight.
Later tetartera, on the contrary, are perfectly recognizable in terms of typology and
manufacture (thickflan and smaller diameter), but nothing is known about the con-
ditions in which they circulated and about their market value. Whatever the case,
they probably reveal the empire’s efforts at paying at least part of its expenses in
lighter coin.
The slow process of debasement was, however, (like the creeping inflation of paper
money in our age) relatively more concealed and less painful, which explains why none
of the sources from that period allude to it. Not surprisingly, the rate speeded up
during a second phase from Constantine IX to Romanos IV—or, more exactly, to the
middle of the latter’s reign. Average silver content rose from 10.9% to 24.8%, an in-
crease of 0.4% per year. If we adopt the unrealistic hypothesis that the entire previous
output was melted down, this would have corresponded to an increase in the monetary
Table 5
The Principal Stages in the Debasement of the Nomisma, 914–1092*
Gold Silver Copper
Reign Dates (%) (%) (%)
Justinian II–Leo VI 695–912 97.3 1.99 0.7
Constantine VII 914–959 94.4 4.8 0.7
Michael IV 1034–41 90.0 7.0 3.0
Constantine IX Monomachos 1041–55 87.0 10.9 2.1
Romanos IV Diogenes 1068–71 70.0 24.8 5.2
Michael VII Doukas 1071–78 58.1 37.1 4.8
Nikephoros III Botaneiates 1078–81 35.8 56.6 7.6
Alexios I Komnenos (prereform) 1081–92 10.6 72.5 16.9
Source: Morrisson et al., L’or monnaye
´(as above, note 38).
*Average rates for the histamenon nomisma.
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 931
Kedrenos, Synopsis historion, ed. I. Bekker, 2 vols. (Bonn, 1838–39), 2:369.
H. Ahrweiler, “Nouvelle hypothe
`se sur le te
`ron d’or et la politique mone
´taire deNice
Phocas,ZRVI 8 (1963): 1–9.
supply of more than 5% per year. However, it is more likely to have been on the order
of 1% (or an increase by one-third in monetary units over thirty years).
In a final and most serious phase from 1071 to 1092, the gold fineness fell rapidly
from 35.8% to 10.6% alone under Alexios I, whose “gold” coinage, albeit still contain-
ing a tenth of yellow metal, was in appearance no more than a silver coinage. The docu-
ments occasionally lay emphasis on the decline in its value,
which was due to the
use of an alloy that included silver and copper instead of the native unrefined gold
with a high silver content of the two preceding phases.
This method of debasement also explains why the gold content of the coinage fell
so catastrophically. It was also responsible for the debasement of the silver coinage,
whose fineness remained above 90% until the reign of Constantine X (1059–67) with
no significant reduction until the reign of Romanos IV (1068–71) (first issue 90.7%,
second issue 71% silver), falling to 45% under Nikephoros III (1078–81). In fact, both
the silver and copper added to the nomisma were, on the whole, directly derived from
the silver coinages of preceding emperors, and the sequence of these devaluations can
be followed issue by issue. Consequently, there is no need to explain this debasement
by referring to the silver “famine” in the Muslim East at this period.
Copper coinage also experienced a devaluation, though our only available clue (fol-
lowing the brief return to the heavy standard of the 6th century under Basil II with
the anonymous A2 class folles, part of which was struck at 15 or 18 to the pound) is
thereduction in the weight of the follis from 24 to the pound (ca. 1028–1067) to 48
to the pound (1068–81), and even the striking of a lead coinage in 1092.
The reform of Alexios I Komnenos put an end to this crisis by restoring a gold
coinage of high fineness, the hyperpyron, and by creating a new system destined to
endure in its main features for some two centuries. The Komnenian system had the
widest range known to Byzantium, after that of the sixth century (from 1 to 2,400 or
12,000 between the solidus and the pentanoummion or the nummus). Its slide toward
lower values (the copper tetarteron was worth only a third of the preceding follis)
reveals a desire to provide for the circulation of a coin with a weaker purchasing power.
For both kinds of precious metal, the choice of fineness, respectively ca. 21 carats for
thehyperpyron (instead of the 23 carats of the 9th to 10th centuries or the 22 carats
at the beginning of the 11th century) and seven carats for the new white gold coinage
(see Fig. 2) was due to the necessity to put back into circulation the existing stock of
debased coinages with the least possible loss of metal. This also explains the closely
connected disappearance of all silver coin that was more or less pure. The two levels
of 21 and 7 carats did in fact correspond to the decision to melt down two sets of
coinages, those from the beginning of the eleventh century (ca. 21 carats) and the
932 CE
Actes de Lavra, ed. P. Lemerle, A. Guillou, N. Svoronos, and D. Papachryssanthou, Archives de
l’Athos, 4 vols. (Paris, 1970–82) 1: no. 53, 1. The sale of 3 modioi of vineyard and of 2 modioi of
cleared land for
´gmato" nomi
´smata tessara
´konta kai
´nte trace
´a stauroagiodhmh-
th'" tetrhmme
´nh" poio
“La monnaie d’or byzantine de Constantinople,” in Morrisson et al., L’or monnaye
´(as above, note
38), 137–39.
heavily alloyed issues of the last period. The system remained fairly stable throughout
thetwelfth century; the hyperpyron did not fall below 19 carats. The slide from the
initial rate of 86% (20
carats) that started with Andronikos I was accentuated under
Isaac II and Alexios III but remained relatively limited. The trachy, on the other hand,
was first debased during the reign of Manuel I, then under Isaac II, its intrinsic value
falling to one-fourth and then to one-sixth of that of the hyperpyron. Finally, the silver-
alloyed copper coinage, called staminum in Latin sources, saw its silver content fall from
6–7% under John II (1118–43) to 2–3% under Alexios III (1195–1203), and its value
in relation to the hyperpyron fell from
in 1136 to
in 1190 and
in 1199
(Fig. 3).
After 1204 the empire of Nicaea was the only Byzantine state to emerge from the
dismemberment of the Byzantine lands that struck a complete series of Komnenian
denominations. Two transformations may be noted: on the one hand, the evolution of
the pale gold coinage, the trachy aspron, into a pure silver coinage
and that of the
silver-alloyed copper coinage into a pure copper coinage on the other, and above all
theresumption of the debasement of the gold coinage which reduced it from around
17 carats (70%) during the period 1230–60 to ca. 11 carats (45%) within less than a
century. Contemporaries were well aware of this process, as is shown by the figures
cited in frequently quoted passages from Pachymeres and Pegolotti, which agree
closely with the values established by analysis (Fig. 4). This phenomenon is well corre-
lated with the empire’s financial difficulties, which played a determining part in both
this devaluation and in the diminished quantities struck from 1325 on. The decision
purely and simply to stop minting the hyperpyron after 1353 was also linked to the
international monetary context of the age. The different ratios between Byzantium
and the Muslim world, on the one hand, and western Europe on the other, and the
consequent export of metal coin between these zones contributed to the systems’
double reversal: the return to gold in Italy (1252–84), and the decline as well as the
difficulties involved in minting silver grossi in Venice in the 1320s and later.
In 1304 the introduction of the basilikon, a pure silver coinage modeled on the
Venetian ducat or grosso, accompanied or briefly preceded by that of the tournesion/
politikon, a billon coinage (with ca. 22% silver), marked the abandonment of Komnen-
ianstructures under the influence of western prototypes.
However, the hierarchy and
range of denominations remained comparable, insofar as we can tell from estimates
that are often unsure about the relative value of the lower denominations. This was
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 933
C. Morrisson, J.-N. Barrandon, and V. Ivanis
´,“Late Byzantine Silver and Billon Coinage: A
Study of Its Composition,” in Metallurgy in Numismatics, ed. W. A. Oddy and M. Cowell, vol. 4 (Lon-
don, 1997).
C. Morrisson, “Monnaie et finances dans l’Empire byzantin, Xe–XIVe sie
`cle,” in Monnaie (as
above, note 20), art. 4, pp. 311–15, with references. P. Spufford, Money and Its Use in Medieval Europe
(Cambridge, 1988), 132–86, 267–88; F. C. Lane and R. C. Mueller, Money and Banking in Medieval
Venice (Baltimore, Md., 1985), 314–18, 326–32, 347.
P. Grierson, DOC 5.1:50, 142. C. Morrisson, “Les noms de monnaies des Pale
´ologues,” in Ge-
schichte und Kultur der Palaiologenzeit, ed. W. Seibt (Vienna, 1996), 151–62.
also a feature of a system that began in 1367 (see DOC 5.1:50–51, 200–203) and was
constructed around the stavraton, a heavy silver coin weighing more than 8 g, equiva-
lent to twice the weight of fine metal of the last hyperpyra (4.2 g to 11 carats 1.92 g
gold 17.3 g silver with a gold:silver ratio of 1:9). The stavraton and its subunits,
whichwere almost as pure as the Venetian grosso, were slightly debased under John
VIII, although, paradoxically enough, they recovered their original quality in the last
issue of 1453.
Specific Features of Provincial Mints The uniform nature of the gold coinage was sym-
bolized by the inscription
on its reverse, irrespective of which mint was in-
volved. We know that this statement was not merely for form’s sake since the Pragmatic
Constitution of Justinian (554) for Italy declared that “solidi struck from the Emperors’
dies must circulate in all the provinces with no exchange costs” and specified that
anyone contravening this rule was to pay his client another solidus for every solidus
taxed in this way.
This uniformity dominated until the end of the seventh century,
although respect for the capital’s metrological norms (weight and fineness) did not
prevent specific variations, which may possibly explain why people were suspicious, as
indicated by the practices condemned in the document.
In Carthage, for instance, the coinage was systematically dated by regnal or indiction
year, reflecting a different way of organizing production. Furthermore, starting with
Maurice, solidi became increasingly thick, even globular. Thus the energy required to
strike a coin diminished by a factor of 20 over a century, and numismatists can only
speculate about the reasons for this particular way of economizing.
The composition of the gold coinage remained uniform until the end of the seventh
century, with provincial mints applying the same slight reduction in weight and fine-
ness to the solidus as in Constantinople. The first deviation came in 695 at Syracuse;
thefineness fell to ca. 80%, where it stabilized until a second and final devaluation
between approximately 820 and 886, which turned the nomisma into a coin that was
half copper (Fig. 5).
Acomparable devaluation, albeit less well known with regard to
detail or proceedings, affected the minting of Italian gold during the same period.
Silver coinage was almost nonexistent in the East during the sixth century, though
forming a considerable part of the output from western mints at Carthage and in Italy,
whichkept to the traditions of the Vandals and Ostrogoths. It continued to play a role
in Africa until the Arab conquest, although in a system structured very differently
from that of Constantinople. Instead of a large and heavy denomination of
(hexagram of ca. 25 mm and 6.72 g), it involved a series of small coins (12–10 mm or
934 CE
CIC, Nov, app. VII.20: “sancimus solidos Romanorum principum forma signatos sine permutationis dis-
pendio per omnes provincias ambulare et per eos celebrari contractus.
F. Delamare, P. Montmitonnet, and C. Morrisson, “Une approche me
´canique de la frappe des
monnaies,RN 26 (1984): 25–27; C. Morrisson et al., “A Mechanical Approach to Coin Striking:
Application to the Study of Byzantine Gold Solidi,” in Monnaie (as above, note 20), art. 13.
Morrisson, “Nouvelles recherches,” 275–78.
less, weighing some 0.70 g and 0.30 g,
of a siliqua?) that occupied the in-
termediary position between, on the one hand, fractions of the solidus and, on the other,
thefollis, both virtually nonexistent in Africa.
P. Grierson and W. Hahn estimate the
theoretical value of the
siliqua at 5 folles, that is,
solidus (?).
In Italy, silver was no longer as important as it had been in the seventh century; it
was not struck at all in Sicily, where semisses and tremisses were issued in significant
quantities untilthe ninth century. Ravenna still had a few rare coins of
siliqua (0.3–
0.5 g, worth 3 folles according to Grierson) at the turn of the seventh century, whereas
Rome constituted a special case by continuing to strike a “Byzantino-pontifical” coinage
(ca. 0.25 g with a fineness that fell from 95% to 30%) until it came within the orbit of
the Carolingian world in the 780s.
The peculiarities of thebronze coinage of Alexandria and the western mints can
also be noted. Right until the Arab conquest (and beyond with a series of Arab and
Byzantine imitations), Alexandria maintained a system that kept to the original denom-
inations of 12, 6, and 3 noummia. The 12-noummia pieces are the only ones that are
very common. They constituted the bulk of Egyptian small currency and did not circu-
late outside the province. Despite the mark of value IB, occasionally the more explicit
IBN (DOC, Herakleios, no. 190) or 12 noummia, it was probably considered equivalent
to a follis of Constantinople in the seventh century, as suggested by the M that occurs
between the I and the B on some coins of Herakleios (MIB 208–9) and of Constans II
(MIB 188). At Carthage, the metrology of the coinage was different from that of the
capital; the standard was higher, and the half-follis played the dominant role that, in
Constantinople, belonged to the follis.
At Kherson, finally, a local bronze coinage was
minted between the middle of the ninth and the beginning of the eleventh century. Its
metrology was very diverse, since coins varied in weight between 2 and7gandin
diameter between 10 and 25 mm, without it being possible to establish a hierarchy of
denominations. The few analyses that have been carried out have established that the
copper alloy had a high lead content (23–60%), pointing to the city’s isolation and
difficulty in securing metal.
The absence of any marks of value during the later period means that analogous com-
parisons cannot be drawn, though the denominations are clearly distinguished by man-
ufacture and metrology. Thus, in the twelfth century, it is possible to compare an east-
ern or Constantinopolitan zone (including Thrace) where the stamenon (“billon trachy”)
dominated with a western zone (Thessalonike and especially Hellas-Peloponnesos)
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 935
C. Morrisson, “Le ro
ˆle du monnayage d’argent dans la circulation africaine a
´poque vandale
et Byzantine,Bulletin de la Socie
¸aise de numismatique 44 (1989): 518–22.
DOC 2:20; MIB, 3, 18.
Morrisson (as above, note 20); A. Rovelli, “Emissione e uso della moneta: Le testimonianze scritte
e archeologiche,” in Roma nell’alto medioevo, Settimane di Studio del Centro Italiano di Studi sull’alto
medioevo 49 (Spoleto, 2000), 821–56.
DOC 2:29–30; C. Morrisson, “Carthage: Production et circulation du bronze a
´poque byzantine
`sles trouvailles et les fouilles,” BAntFr (1988): 239–53.
where the tetarteron and even the half-tetarteron played a more important, even ex-
clusive, role.
The fact that the gold coinages from different mints evolved along divergent lines
between the seventh and ninth centuries merely reflected the process by which the
empire’s western provinces were becoming increasingly distanced from its eastern core.
As it is, the regional divergences affecting silver, billon, and copper coins, both in the
seventh to ninth centuries and until the twelfth century, are evidence of the way that
alocalcurrency of a partial or entirely fiduciary nature could adapt to local conditions.
Unfortunately, we can only observe this process of adaptation without being able to
determine its causes. Various factors, such as the state of the market and of exchanges,
pricelevels and the degree of monetization, as well as the ratio of gold to silver, prob-
ably came into play. Thus, in the sixth century, it can be deduced that there was a dif-
ference between prices expressed in folles in Africa and Egypt and those in the cap-
ital; it is tempting to correlate this difference with the system and metrology specific to
Variations in the Money Supply (Sixth–Fifteenth Centuries)
The question of the money supply and variations to it is obviously basic to all economic
research. By evaluating it, we can measure the development and wealth of the state
and economy concerned. Apart from periodic discoveries of new mineral resources,
relatively limited in time during the period that concerns us, which served to increase
the quantities of available metal, positive variations were generally the result of an
artificial multiplication of monetary units effected through devaluation. Conversely,
any reduction in the money supply, whether due to external payments or to excessive
hoarding during troubled periods, not forgetting permanent factors such as wear, attri-
tion, and accidental losses, constituted a constant and much feared threat.
Allresearch must obviously start from an estimate of the monetary production. Al-
though documents about this certainly did exist in the Byzantine Empire, nothing
has been preserved to match the monetary ordinances and mint accounts that enable
researchers in the West to study in some detail the quantities of coin struck from the
end of the thirteenth century on and to put forward coherent aggregates. Thus we are
reduced, both for the early Byzantine and the later period, to refer to the specimens
that have been preserved. Counting these is a very imperfect method because the num-
berofpieces that survive is very seldom in proportion to the number originally issued,
especially when dealing with precious metals that were minted in limited quantities
and were hoarded in a very irregular manner. However, during the last threedecades,
numismatists have refined statistical methods for estimating the original number of
dies that were used to strike a given issue. Assuming the random nature of the sample
936 CE
Hendy, Studies, 435–37; a detailed study by M. Oikonomidou et al., “O qhsauro
1979: Sumbolh
´sthn kuklofori
´a twn tetarthrw
´n tou IB∆ ai. m. C.,First International Symposium for Thra-
cian Studies, “Byzantine Thrace”: Image and Character, ed. C. Bakirtzis, vol. 1 (Amsterdam, 1989), 367–
428 (ByzF 14.1 [1989], 367–428).
studied, these estimates allow us to compare the relative size of the issues. A further
stage can even be reached; by formulating hypotheses about the average number of
given pieces that could be struck per die, figures can be suggested for the volume of
coin minted, on the basis of such fragile foundations.
Since analyzing the dies for any given output is a lengthy process, which involves
comparing all the examples individually and achieves uncertain results, few studies of
this kind have been undertaken for Byzantine coinage. So we need to be cautious about
an edifice of hypotheses, on which estimates about the quantities struck are based, and
to guard against the dangers of reproducing or using them, thus giving them an abso-
lute value that they do not in any way possess. I need only observe that during the
early Byzantine period, the few available estimates for issues in the capitaltheir very
abundance discourages any study of the dies—are between ten and five times higher
than estimates for provincial mints, which is not unlikely. I should also point out that
the variations in the number of dies estimated for the solidi of Constantinople in the
seventh century correspond with the historical context when they show an annual pro-
duction that doubled during the years of war effort (610–632: 1,430,000 solidi?) com-
pared with that of the previous ten years (602–610: 840,000 solidi?) or the following
decade (632–641: 750,000 solidi?). Insofar as this estimate for the volume of output is
credible, although certainly an overestimate, it is not entirely incompatible with the
estimates put forward for the Byzantine budget in the sixth century. It also makes
sense when set alongside the figures for issues known from documents for medieval
and modern states. For the middle Byzantine period, the iconoclastic corpus offers
results that could indicate an annual minting of some 250,000 to 300,000 nomismata
representing a tenth of imperial revenues. The estimate for Constantine VII
(260,000) is at first sight low but is based on a far less important corpus (186 examples
overforty-five years instead of 1,170 over eighty-six years) and a more delicate use of
statistics. As for the surprising difference that has been observed between the estimates
for Alexios I (570,000 hyperpyra) and Manuel I (40,000 hyperpyra) to the detriment
of the latter, it is far from established, given that it is derived from too limited a base.
Even if one were able to estimate without too much uncertainty the volume of out-
put, the task of piecing together the evolution of the money supplies would not be
made much easier, as is demonstrated by the obstacles that crop up in more recent and
better-documented periods, such as the eighteenth or nineteenth century in France. In
fact, this would require taking account of many other factors, about which not much
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 937
C. Morrisson, “Changes in the Stock of Monetary Bullion in Byzantium,” in Coin Production and
Sources of Bullion, 4th–10th Century, ed. M. Barcelo
`and M. Blackburn, forthcoming (an up-to-date
report on proposed estimates for monetary production during certain reigns). F. Fu
¨eg, “Die Solidus-
Ausgaben 720–797 in Konstantinopel,” Revue suisse de numismatique 70 (1991): 35–74; idem, “Vom
Umgang mit Zufall und Wahrscheinlichkeit in der numismatischen Forschung,” ibid., 76 (1997):
Metcalf, Coinage in South-Eastern Europe, 820–1396 (London, 1979), 109, acknowledges this: “an
estimate based on a proper corpus of Manuel’s coins remains a desideratum, before one regards the
contrast with Alexius’ 8 to 10 million hyperpyra as an established fact.”
is known either. Among these are total or annual rates for reminting coins, which
would require estimating the average life span of a coinage. This, however, seems to
have varied over time and space, when estimates for the gold coinage are based on the
chronological span observed in hoards that are considered representative. It changed
from about thirty years in the fourth century to sixty to eighty years for the gold money
of Constantinople in the seventh to fourteenth centuries, whereas in Carthage, on the
other hand, it fell from around eighty years in the sixth century to thirty-eight years
in the eighth century.
Afurther essential factor for estimating the supply is the wastage of metal in circula-
tion as a result of wear on coins, accidental loss, and, finally, hoarding. Wear depends
on both the properties of the metallic alloy and the conditions under which money
circulates. All things being equal, it is in proportion to the length of circulation. Its
rate is modified by any change to the alloy and by any variation in the intensity of the
Assuming that the latter was stable and knowing that the composition of
the solidus did not vary during this period, F. Delamare has been able to estimate the
annual weight loss for the seventh-century solidi of Constantinople, found in the
Rougga hoard, at 0.44 mg, that is, ca. 0.01% of their legal weight. This figure is similar
to those that the Monnaie de Paris and the Royal Mint arrived at in the nineteenth
century for gold pieces (0.014% for the napoleon in 1824–50, and 0.019% in 1854–88,
and 0.034% for the sovereign). However, we must be wary of drawing fallacious analo-
gies, because these modern types are three times more durable than the aureus or the
solidus, and weight loss over time is only comparable in cases where the alloy is similar
and where the susceptibility to corrosion is known.
What is more, few Byzantine
hoards have been studied in this respect, and it is impossible to generalize. Wastage
may have played a more important role, but it can only be estimated on a very dubious
comparative basis. Statistical surveys were conducted in the United Kingdom during
the 1960s prior to the decimalization of the coinage in 1971, which showed annual
rates of 3.3%, 0.6%, 1.5%, and 1.8% for the halfpenny, penny, threepenny, and six-
penny coins respectively, without any clear hierarchy emerging, although London, the
south, and southeastern regions showed higher levels of wastage.
Even though these
938 CE
J.-P. Callu, “Structure des de
ˆts d’or au IVe sie
`cle (312–392),” in Crise et redressement dans les
provinces europe
´ennes de l’empire (milieu du IIIe–milieu du IVe sie
`cle ap. J.-C), Actes du Colloque de Strasbourg,
´c. 1981, ed. E. Fre
´zouls (Strasbourg, 1983), 157–74. See C. Morrisson (in R. Gue
´ry et al., “Etude
numismatique,Recherches arche
´ologiques franco-tunisiennes a
`Rougga, vol. 3, Le tre
´sordemonnaies d’or
byzantines [Rome, 1982], 66) for a comparison between Carthage and Constantinople in the 7th cen-
tury. The hypotheses on which G. Depeyrot bases his conclusion about the life span of solidi (“La
´e d’utilisation des solidi romains,” in Studia numismatica labacensia: Alexandro Jeloc
ˇnik oblata, ed.
P. Kos and Z. Demo [Ljubljana, 1988], 213–17), setting it at 30 to 35 years for solidi in the 5th century,
are not obvious. Most notably, his calculation of an average rate of wear to be 2 mg per year has been
superseded by the theoretical and experimental study by F. Delamare, Le fraietses lois: The Wear of
Coins, Cahiers Ernest-Babelon 5 (Paris, 1994), 198–99. See also R. Bland, “The Changing Patterns of
Hoards of Precious-Metal Coins in the Late Empire,” An Tard 5 (1997): 29–55.
Delamare, Frai.
Ibid., 99, 269.
T. J. Cole, “Geographical Variation in the Wastage Rate of Modern United Kingdom Coinage,
Statistique et numismatique, ed. J. Guey and T. Hackens (Strasbourg, 1981), 309–16.
rates applied to coins with the lowest purchasing power, the geologist L. L. Patterson
proposed an average rate of 2% for the entire money supply of antiquity and the
Middle Ages, a rate that would have resulted in the disappearance of nine-tenths of
any specific supply over a century, and appears to be an overestimate. J. H. Munro
estimates the wastage rate at between 0.2% and 1% during the later Middle Ages.
Hoarding could effect a serious reduction in the money supply, especially in
troubled periods when a greater number of hoards was never recovered than was the
caseinordinary times, since “all memory of them had been lost.”
As a general rule,
eveninapeaceful context, as in Constantinople during the tenth century, hoarding
´zein)was forbidden, as the possible cause of lack of coin (nomi
´smato" e
which was always feared.
In the same way, the Byzantine government always tried to
implement measures that favored the return to circulation of coins that had been bur-
ied in hoards.
We would like to know the extent of hoarding, in other words, of the
Byzantine population’s involvement in unproductive savings. What proportion of their
property was stored in coin form? Such wills as have survived seldom enable any esti-
mate of this or any kind to be made, though some do provide a few figures:
of coins and objects in the will of Boilas; 12 pounds of gold in coin in the case of
Gregory Pakourianos in 1090, that is, 12% of his capital, if each of his four proasteia
was also worth the 25 annual pounds of gold that J.-C. Cheynet has estimated for
Radolibos; two-thirds of the coins (according to Cheynet, or 40% if one estimates lega-
cies in coin at 119 pounds instead of Cheynet’s 100 pounds) in the patrimony of Kale
Pakouriane in 1098. In 1314 the property of the Thessalonike landowner Theodore
Karabas—for which I provide a rough estimate on the basis of known price series—
consisted basically of town houses (13 130 hyperpyra), a village house, and vineyards
(61 modioi 854 hyperpyra). Karabas also had 300 measures of wine (30 hyper-
pyra), 30 tetartia of wheat (12 hyperpyra), 10 tetartia of millet (1.5 hyperpyra),
an ox and a half a cow (5hyperpyra), movable goods in the form of clothes and
jewels (70 hyperpyra, of which 20 hyperpyra in jewels), and the anticipated pro-
duce of various pieces of land sown with wheat (7.5 hyperpyra). The 52 ducats that
he left to cover his debts (17.5 hyperpyra) and various money legacies (56 hyperpyra),
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 939
L. L. Patterson, “Silver Stocks and Losses in Ancient and Medieval Times,” EcHistR, 2d ser., 3
(1972): 203–35, criticized in Grierson, “The Role of Silver,” 139–40. J. H. Munro, “Monetary Con-
traction and Industrial Change,” in Coinage in the Low Countries, 880–1500, ed. N.J. Mayhew (Oxford,
1979), 99.
The extent to which a coin issue is represented by its recorded finds today may present a (mini-
mal) measure of its rate of nonrecuperation during the medieval period. D. M. Metcalf, for instance,
estimates the survival rate for tens of millions of silver gros struck at Cyprus at one or two in every
thousand (D. M. Metcalf and A. G. Pitsillides, “Studies of the Lusignan Coinage,” jEpethri
`" tou' Ke
trou jEpisthmonikw'njEreunw'n 19 (1992): 4–5.
See Novel 52 of Leo VI and several passages in the Book of the Eparch; C. Morrisson, “Manier
l’argent a
`Constantinople au Xe sie
`cle,” in Eupsychia: Me
´langes offerts a
`ne Ahrweiler, 2vols. (Paris,
1997), 2:557–65.
C. Morrisson,“La de
´couverte des tre
´sors a
´poque byzantine the
´orie et pratique de l’eu
qhsaurou',”inMonnaie (as above, note 20), art. 7.
J.-C. Cheynet, “Fortune et puissance de l’aristocratie (Xe–XIIe s.),” in Hommes et richesses dans
l’Empire byzantin, 2vols. (Paris, 1989–91), 2:199–213.
represented some 78 hyperpyra, or rather less than 7% of his total assets (1,191
Finally, in 1384, Maria Deblitzenes dowry,
originally worth 22 pounds
of gold in total (1,584 hyperpyra), included 500 hyperpyra (dia
´gmato")or31%, a
percentage that is all the more credible in that all the goods are valued in the text.
Leaving aside the fact that money, as a general rule, featured more largely in womens
legacies (31–40% in the examples cited here),
one can observe that around 25% of
theentire capital probably represents the proportion of liquid funds required by land-
owners, both to meet their ready cash needs and as a reserve for emergencies. This
ratio contrasts, for instance, with the extreme case of Pasino degli Eustachi’s legacy,
77.6% of which consisted of coins and only 10% of land. He had been a wealthy Mi-
lanese merchant living in Pavia during the fifteenth century, and coins were the tools
of his trade.
Allthese metal reserves were, of course, coveted by the state, which often
confiscated them in times of shortage.
However, the state also accumulated reserves of metal whenever it could, and we do
have some figures for hoarding by rulers,
whowere either, like Anastasios, praised
fortheir parsimony, or, like Constantine V, blamed, both for their avarice and for the
perverse, clearly deflationary results. Arranging these figures into a table (see Table 6)
in order to compare them to various estimates of the imperial budget and to deduce
averages is a dangerous exercise, for various reasons: the uncertain nature of the data;
the arbitrary way in which annual savings are estimated for the duration of the only
reigns considered; the empire’s constant vicissitudes and the ensuing variations in its
finances. I simply note how Anastasios’ prudent management, which is often cited as an
example, resulted, thanks to an annual surplus of about one-seventh, in stocks repre-
senting more than three times the current budget, and that Basil II’s exceptional funds
amounted to three times as much again.
What, apart from these reserves, which, as we know, consisted partly of coins and
partly of ingots, were the sources of coined metal?
New metal appears to have made
but a very limited contribution to renewing the money supply. However, by measuring
trace elements in the alloy of gold and silver coins and the way they evolve (increase
940 CE
See the commentary in Actes de Chilandar, ed. M. Z
´,V.Kravari, and C. Giros, Archives
de l’Athos (Paris, 1998), 211–12; cf. A. E. Laiou, “The Agrarian Economy, Thirteenth–Fifteenth Cen-
turies,EHB 360–61.
Actes de Docheiariou, ed. N. Oikonomides, Archives de l’Athos (Paris, 1984), 49.
Cf. J.-C. Cheynet, “Aristocratie et he
´ritage,” in La transmission du patrimoine: Byzance et l’aire me
´enne, ed. J. Beaucamp and G. Dagron (Paris, 1998), 59–60.
C. Cipolla, Before the Industrial Revolution, 3d ed. (London, 1993), 35. The coins amounted to
92,500 ducats 326.5 kg of gold, to which were added jewels worth 2,225 ducats.
References and commentary in Hendy, Studies, 224–26.
Naturally, Psellos responds in rhetorical terms to this question (Accusation de Ce
´rulaire, ed.
J. Bidez, in Catalogue des manuscrits alchimiques grecs [Brussels, 1924– ]), 6:78: ouj ga
`r ejk meta
´llwn mo
oujd∆ ajpo
`tw'nth'"gh'" mucw'noJtou' basile
´w" ejpidi
´dwsi qhsauro
´". oujde
´roi tou'ton plh
´qousi mo
´noi kai
´a" sunte
´leiai, kai
`oujd∆ oJ bohla
´th" aujtv' leitourgei' mo
´no", ajll∆ oujde
»tton kai
`oJ crusela
`oJ to
`n katti
´teron ejlau
´nwn kai
`oJ th
´kwn to
´libdon. For mines, see K.-P. Matschke, “Mining,” EHB,
and B. Pitarakis, “Mines anatoliennes exploite
´es par les Byzantins: Recherches re
´centes,RN 153
(1998): 141–85.
or decrease in a specific element), it is possible in certain cases to detect the appearance
of a metal from a different origin, whether derived from new mines or imported. With
regard to the gold coinage of the seventh to fifteenth centuries, J. Poirier has estimated
the annual rate of renewal in the long term at 1%.
Starting from the same data,
A. Guerreau has produced an improved model and estimates this rate at no more than
He proposes a distinction between several phases: between 550 and 900, the
reduction in the rate from 450 to 280 parts per million implies a rate of 0.14%, and a
greater reduction between 900 and 950 signifies a faster rate of renewal prior to a
return to the original rate of 0.14%. The same datafor the reign of Alexios I Komnenos
and others concerning the empire of Nicaea suggest a partial recourse to new metal,
whichishard to quantify.
In the case of silver, A. A. Gordus and D. M. Metcalf have shown variations in the
gold traces that could be significant;
pieces with a low gold content were concentrated
under the reign of Constantine VI and may have been struck from metal that was
originally Arab, to the extent that some of them have been restruck on dirhams. The
authors tend to think that, since the political context of the age excluded the payment
Table 6
Accumulated Reserves and Imperial Budgets, 402–1025
Accumulated Estimated % Savings/
reserves budget Reserves/ Savings/year annual budget
Dates Reign (in nomismata) (in nomismata) budget (in nomismata) (percent)
402–457 Theodosios II 7,200,000 5,000,000 144% 130,909 2.6
6,000,000 120% 2.1
7,000,000 102% 1.8
491–518 Anastasios 23,040,000 5,000,000 460% 853,333 17
6,000,000 380% 14
7,000,000 330% 12
741–775 Constantine V 3,600,000 1,700,000 211% 102,857 6.0
829–856 Theophilos 7,200,000 2,800,000 257% 266,667 9.5
Theodora 3,300,000 218% 8.1
976–1025 Basil II 14,400,000 4,000,000 360% 369,230 9.2
5,000,000 288% 7.3
6,000,000 240% 6.1
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 941
J. Poirier, in Morrisson et al., L’or monnaye
´(as above, note 38), 84, fig. 35.
A. Guerreau, Histoire et mesure 1 (1986): 258–59.
Morrisson et al., L’or monnaye
´(as above, note 38), 155, 158–60.
A. A. Gordus and D. M. Metcalf, “The Alloy of the Miliaresion,HBN 24/26 (1972) [1977]: 9–36.
of tribute to Byzantium, the arrival of this metal could have been linked to the peace
that was instituted in 781 and the reduced customs duties at Hieron and Abydos. In-
versely, pieces with higher gold traces could have been struck from metal from the
mines of Armenia. As may be seen, the question of the provenance of the metal is one
of those that have only recently been addressed by modern methods of analysis, and
the answers are still very inadequate. These methods have at least been able to con-
firm the conclusions outlined by S. Vryonis in 1962, and developed here by K. P. Mat-
schke: the Byzantines did indeed have access to mines and sources of metal.
Insofar as we can judge, however, our period neverwitnessed an influx, of gold at
any rate, comparable to the one that made possible the monetary enrichment of the
late empire in the fourth century. Our only assumption is that this contribution of
newly extracted or imported metal was in the long term sufficient to compensate for
the various forms of wastage (wear and accidental losses or lost hoards) and produced
an increase in the money supply only very episodically, as in the case of Nicaea in the
thirteenth century.
The Inelastic Metal Supply and Remedies Faced with an inelastic metal supply, the state
resorted perforce to a variety of expedients when it needed to restore a balance be-
tween inadequate receipts and levels of expenditure, which were generally very resis-
tant to any reduction, although instances of drastic adjustments and savings (such as
the abolition of free bread distribution or the reduction by half of all the rogai under
Herakleios) are not lacking over the years. In fact, there simply was not a sufficiently
developed banking system capable of advancing the considerable sums required by the
imperial finances when in difficulties. It is only in the fourteenth century that we can
see the empire resorting to loans from foreign institutions. The first case was in 1343,
whenVenice accorded Anna of Savoy and John V a loan at 5% over three years, of
30,000 ducats, paid in hyperpyra by the Venetian merchants of Constantinople, and
secured against the crown jewels, rubies, and tiger rubies weighing 31 exagia and 12
carats (equivalent to 609 g) in total. The debt was not repaid, and the jewels remained
in Venice’s possession until the fall of the empire.
Between the eighth and eleventh centuries, the rogae, or “state rents,” had supplied
a permanent source of liquid assets at reduced cost. In times of crisis, this cost could
be reduced still further by cutting back or suppressing payments. However, there is
some doubt about the system’s flexibility and its ability to provide large sums instantly,
nor is there historical evidence for this. On the other hand, the sources are full of
instances of resorting to metal reserves, the coins and objects made of precious metal
belonging to institutions or individuals: this involved melting down tableware, statues,
942 CE
Matschke, “Mining,” 115–20.
T. Bertele
`,“Igioielli della corona bizantina dati in pegno alla repubblica veneta nel sec. XIVe
Mastino II della Scala,” Studi in onore di Amintore Fanfani, 6vols. (Milan, 1962), 2:89–177. For other
loans taken out by the Palaiologoi, see ibid., 137–38, n. 64; the last one of these amounted to 9,000
hyperpyra loaned by Genoese merchants to Constantine XI in January 1453, and also mortgaged
against a tiger (balas) ruby.
crown jewels or worse, ornaments buried in imperial tombs, implementing loans or
confiscations of church treasuries, and, obviously enough, enforced loans or confisca-
tions of private fortunes.
Before resorting to such extreme measures, it was possible to develop or extend the
use of quasi- or substitute money. On the borderlines between metal money and money
of convenience, this lead coinage of minimal or almost no intrinsic value appeared
whenthe current coinage was affected by inflation (late 6th and late 11th centuries)
or in isolated regions (Kherson). The example of the leather coinage that Constan-
tine Vissupposed to have issued in 743 for his troops under the walls of Constan-
tinople is one of a classic obsidional or siege coinage.
The characteristic and most
widespread quasi-money in the economic history of Byzantium is, of course, silk, the con-
stant complement to rogai in coin, but which could, when needed, replace the latter
wholly or in part, as it did in 1071.
The most current and “softest” solution lay in manipulating the coinage, using the
various processes of debasement and devaluation that western authors in the Middle
Ages distinguished under the terms mutatio in materia or in pondere, on the one hand,
and mutatio in appellatione on the other.
The first processes were applied especially to
precious metal coinages in gold and silver and the second to low-value coins.
Areduction in the weight of a type was detected sooner when it was too marked, as
was the case with the tetarteron, and produced inevitablereactions; so this solution
was rarely adopted. However, I should note that the average observed weight of the
nomisma experienced a tendential reduction, from ca. 4.45 g in the sixth century to
4.35 g in the tenth to eleventh centuries, and to ca. 4.30 g in the twelfth century.
is not possible to measure the reduction any later than this, because it is clear that the
coin weight of specimens was not adjusted al pezzo, as it had been previously, albeit less
carefully from the twelfth century on, as is shown by the greater incidence of variance
(3.6% between 491 and 1081 and 3.7% between 1081 and 1203, but 4.7% in 1222–54,
6.5% in 1258–82, and 8–11% between 1295 and 1328). E. Schilbach’s conclusion was
that, during the later period, “in relation with devaluation, they moved away from the
old ratio of 1 gold pound 72 nomismata.
However, it is difficult to concede that
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 943
Hendy, Studies, 228–31. On the “roga,” cf. Oikonomides, “The Role of the Byzantine State in the
Economy,EHB 1008–11.
Gesta episcoporum Neapolitanorum, chap. 39, cited by W. Brandes, Die Sta
¨dte Kleinasiens in 7. und 8.
Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1989), 147: “ne in tantam multitudinem [the crowd of his troops and partisans]
famis adcresceret, corii solidos pro aureis nomismatis fecit a negotiatoribus dari et recipi, promittens eos, dum
in palatio introiret, omnes colligere et aureis solidos ad corii solidos commutare. Constanter autem
obsidentibus urbem, hii qui intra civitatem erant veniam impetrantes, cum gloria ab omnibus recep-
tus est. Ingresso Constantino palatio, promissum quod de solidos fecerat, explevit.”
Introduction—and slightly outdated presentation of facts: C. Morrisson, “Alterazioni e svalutazi-
oni,” in La cultura bizantina, oggetti e messaggio: Moneta ed economia, ed. A. Guillou et al. (Bari, 1979),
“La monnaie” (as above, note 38), 165–67, 248–50; E. Schilbach, Byzantinische Metrologie (Munich,
1970), 166–68.
Schilbach, Byzantinische Metrologie, 173.
they could so easily have abandoned such an essential constant. Although this is not
theplace to dwell on the weight of the pound, the pivot of Roman and Byzantine
metrology, it can be admitted, as several scholars have done, that this weight slid pro-
gressively from the estimated 325 g of the fourth to sixth centuries, about which we
are nowadays agreed, to 318.7 g and even 304 g at the end of the empire.
With the
exception of a few oscillations that are more marked in one way or another, under such
and such a reign and for such and such an issue, which were in fact manipulations,
this phenomenon amounts rather to a secular slide resulting from the impossibility of
maintaining immutable standard weights in the absence of any physical definition of
themasses involved.
Debasing the fineness was thus the most currently employed means of multiplying
monetary units when the metal supply was limited. The proceedings employed were
more complex than historians tend to think, and they cast some light on the context
of debasement and its consequences. Determining the lead trace element has enabled
J.-N. Barrandon to differentiate between “natural alloy” and “artificial alloy,” in other
words, between coinages struck in native unrefined gold in which the silver content
can vary from a few hundredths to 30% or slightly more, depending on the com-
position and proportion of the mineral used, and coinages that were “devalued” or,
rather, debased by the deliberate addition of silver and copper.
Prior to 1070, the increased proportion of silver in the gold coinage (from 5% to ca.
25%) constituted an undeniable debasement, but it was relatively less harmful than
that of the following period, insofar as it implied access to sources of new metal and
offered the possibility of substantially increasing the number of types struck, theoreti-
cally by a factor of three, without crossing the tolerance threshold, since the yellow
color remained unchanged. After 1070, debasement was effected by the addition of
silver from the miliaresia that were being returned in payment of taxes, and then by
the addition of silver and copper, in line with the debasement of these very miliaresia
with copper, which were then “recycled” into gold coins. This process of “artificial
alloy” involved a far lower increase in the number of coins struck than the preceding
process and explains, as we have seen, the catastrophic nature of this devaluation
which operated, so to speak, within a closed circuit. Though, at the close of the elev-
enth century, the sources of the alloy metal are clear and even identifiable, issue by
issue, this does not apply to the Sicilian solidi of the Amorian dynasty. The model only
shows that, starting in 830, they were adulterated either with coins composed of 20%
silver and 80% copper, or with one part silver for every four parts copper. Since small
change of this fineness did not exist in Byzantium or elsewhere at that time, they must
have resorted to pure metal (derived from mines, tableware, or coins that had been
refined and then returned to the melting pot).
944 CE
Entwistle, “Byzantine Weights,” 611.
“Les me
´thodes d’analyse des monnaies d’or,” in Morrisson et al., L’or monnaye
´(as above, note 38)
33–34, and passim. J.-N. Barrandon, “Mode
´lisation de l’alte
´ration de la monnaie d’or,RN, 6th ser.,
30 (1986): 7–26.
Toward the last days of the empire, the final devaluation of the hyperpyron, at Ni-
caea and under the Palaiologoi, followed a similar process, with simpler proportions
that were not fortuitous. Gold was replaced with a mixture of silver and copper in
perceptibly equal proportions (11% silver 11% copper under Michael VIII; 16–18%
silver 16–18% copper at the beginning of the 14th century). This method of de-
basement was more efficient because it involved only a slight color change, from yellow
to yellowish, despite a considerable reduction in the fineness (from 70% to 45%). It
could be thought that this choice stemmed from the experience of the eleventh cen-
tury; the devaluation of the 1070s and 1080s had been the first in the history of the
coinage to reduce the fineness so drastically, if one excludes the marginal cases in Rome
and Sicily in the eighth to ninth centuries, which probably had little impact on collec-
tive memory. That the lesson had been learned and possibly even exported is shown
by the bizantii saracenati issued at Acre, Tyre, and Tripoli in the thirteenth century,
which adopted the same process.
It explains how, between 1325 and 1353, in spite
of the civil war and the financial crisis, the limit of 11 carats was never crossed. Al-
though the color was only a matter of appearance and illusion, it nevertheless enabled
thehyperpyron to fare better than the nomismata of comparable fineness issued by
Michael VII and his successors, which became aspra trachea.
Devaluing the coinage in the proper sense of the term meant to alter its legal value
without necessarily modifying its physical characteristics. Depreciations of this kind
were frequently implemented and were well known in the West as well as the Muslim
world during the Middle Ages and in the modern age. The Roman Empire also deval-
ued, but the sources do not enable us to follow the process in detail in Byzantium. If
thetheoretical value of the solidus is likely to have remained fixed at
to the pound,
its ratio to other coins did undergo some changes. Some of these are deliberately re-
corded, as in the sixth century when Prokopios mentioned the passage of the solidus
from 180 to 210 folles; others have been deduced from written sources, as we have seen
in the cases of the follis in the seventh century mentioned in papyri
and the miliare-
sion of the tenth century, though still others will doubtless remain hidden forever.
One may surmise that, during the late period, particularly under the Palaiologoi,
the constant practice of changing the types, which affected the whole currency, was
linked to a system of renovationes, decrees accompanying a change in value and/or the
levy of seigniorage (the profit drawn by the sovereign on the manufacture of these new
coinages). A famous passage in the account by Agathangelos explains how the traveler,
on his return to Constantinople in 1351 with ten “gold nomismata” in his pocket, had
changed them into cash (lepto
´tera me
´rh tw'n nomisma
´twn)inordertocarry out his daily
purchases more conveniently, a transaction he soon regretted for, as he says, when he
visited the merchants the next day, “I found that the money in my hands had fallen
and taken such a drop that in a single day the value of my ten nomismata had fallen
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 945
J.-N. Barrandon, M. Bompaire, and C. Morrisson, “The Crusader Besant: Processes of De-
basement,” in Metallurgy in Numismatics (as above, note 57), 35–51.
On the follis and the solidus, see Morrisson, “Alterazioni,” 111–19.
to eight.
This passage is generally interpreted as an instance of hyperinflation in
the copper coinage, which is not entirely impossible in times as troubled as those, but
so sudden and important a depreciation (20% in twenty-four hours) is better explained
in terms of a devaluation by the authorities. The Byzantine bronze coinage had suf-
fered devaluations of this kind for a long time, and the troubles to which they could
give rise are illustrated in this account by Malalas about the devaluation in 553 and its
repeal in the face of popular opposition: “In the month of March, first indiction, there
occurred a mutation of the small change. An uprising by the poor ensued and a riot
whichwere reported to the emperor. And the latter ordered that the official value of
the small change should conform to the previous custom.
It was not always the case that the inelastic metal supply and consecutive deprecia-
tion of the coinage led to inflation. In fact, the causes of devaluation in the Middle
Ages, particularly in Byzantium, were not always conducive to consequences of this
nature. However, this was very much the case when an increase in both public expendi-
ture and the budget deficit was involved and when the state, by creating a coinage with
areduced fineness, made a profit (seigniorage in the wider sense of the term, such as
employed by economists). This was also the case when certain social groups brought
pressure to bear in favor of a “profit inflation” (consisting of devaluing the coinage in
whichthey paid their debts, while their creditors remained liable in strong coin), or
again, when there was an imbalance in the balance of payments or in the monetary
gold:silver ratio. It was not the case when the demand for coinage increased over the
long or medium term, itself induced by an increase in the population and/or a rise in
theeconomy’s overall level of monetization.
These variations in the demand for coin-
age are examined below.
The Demand for and Circulation of Money
Monetization in the Byzantine World
The debate about the Byzantine monetary economy and the contrast between Geld-
wirtschaft and Naturwirtschaft in Byzantium goes back to the 1950s when historians be-
gan wondering why practically no coins from between the end of the seventh and the
beginning of the ninth century have been found in the course of archaeological excava-
tions on large urban sites. I will return to this large gap in numismatic data below.
Unlike A. Kazhdan and P. Charanis,
with their pessimistic assessment of this ab-
946 CE
Nicephori Gregorae Byzantina historia, ed. L. Schopen and I. Bekker, 3 vols. (Bonn, 1829–55), 3:52
(25.27): eu
»ron ejkpeptwko
`ejn cersi
`n ejkei'no
´moi ca
´ragma, kai
`ej" tosau
´thn katenecqe
`n hJme
´ramia' th
fesin wJ" th
´ka moi nomisma
´twn ejkei
´nwn poso
´thta katabh'nai me
´cri" ojktw
Ioannis Malalae Chronographia, ed. L. Dindorf (Bonn, 1831), 486: Mhni
vijndiktiw'no" a
´neto diastrofh
`tou' ke
´rmato"Ú kai
`ejk tw'n ptwcw'n sta
´sew" genome
´nh" kai
´bou ajnhne
´cqh tv' aujtv'
basilei'Ú kai
´leuse th
`n kata
´stasin tou' ke
´rmato" krath'sai kata
`ajrcai'on e
C. Cipolla, “Currency Depreciation in Medieval Europe,EcHistR 215 (1963): 413–22.
P. Charanis, “The Significance of Coins as Evidence for the History of Athens and Corinth in
the Eighth and Ninth Century,” Historia 4 (1955): 163–72 and A. Kazhdan, “Vizantiiskie goroda v
VII–XI vv.,Sovetskaia Arkheologiia 21 (1954): 165–73.
sence of bronze coin finds, G. Ostrogorsky defended the contrary concept ofa“devel-
oped state of the Byzantine monetary economy” in this period
by referring to the
persistent issue of gold coins. However, the controversy was more about estimating
thelevelofactivity in urban circles on the basis of numismatic material than about
monetization itself, a concept that has only recently aroused interest.
Using a comparative approach, I have proposed combining relatively constant or-
ders of magnitude, as recorded in the best known preindustrial contexts, with a few
Byzantine figures deduced from papyri texts or other sources, in order to come up
with a viable hypothesis for the sixth and the beginning of the seventh century, on
theone hand, and for the twelfth to fourteenth centuries on the other. Subsequently,
N. Oikonomides has tried to solve the problem of knowing “to what degree was the
middle Byzantine economy monetized?” by analyzing and commenting on forty ex-
amples of monetary exchange (payments, wages, gifts or acts of charity, loans, etc.)
drawn from saints’ lives of the eighth to eleventh centuries. His answer can be given
briefly as “to a high degree” (se uyhlo
Inversely, H. Saradi has gathered
about twenty archival documents from the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries that deal
with transactions settled partly or wholly in kind, at the request, supposedly, of the
benefiting peasants rather than of sellers or landowners/employers.
Neither of these
studies, however, includes a list of all therecorded transactions that would allow the
proportion of barter to monetized exchanges to be determined.
In quantitative terms, it is obvious that the level of monetization in the capital and
provincial cities on the main sea or land routes was very different from the levels in
themore remote urban sites and countryside. This is a constant feature of preindustrial
economies, as emphasized repeatedly by contemporary authors (such as Cantillon in
the 18th century) and by present-day historians. J. Durliat and M. Hendy have inde-
pendently assembled examples from texts illustrating this contrast in Byzantium, and
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 947
Forthe general context of this controversy, see Dagron, “Urban Economy,” 388, and Laiou,
“Economic and Noneconomic Exchange,” 681ff. G. Ostrogorsky, “Byzantine Cities in the Early
Middle Ages,DOP 13 (1959): 64. For a summary of different points of view, see D. M. Metcalf, “How
Extensive Was the Use of Folles during the Years 775–820?” Byzantion 37 (1967): 270–310; A. Kazh-
dan, “Moneta e societa
`,” in Guillou et al., Moneta (as above, note 92), 205–22. S. Vryonis, “An Attic
Hoard of Byzantine Gold Coins (668–741) from the Thomas Whittemore Collection, and the Numis-
matic Evidence for the Urban History of Byzantium,ZRVI 8.1 (1964): 291–300, acknowledges “the
inconclusive and unsatisfactory nature of the numismatic evidence,” while assembling all the docu-
mentary evidence that points to the vitality of a monetary economy based on gold.
Hendy (Studies, 289–304) simply mentions (290–91) “the exceptionally low level of liquidity in
the4th c. diocese of Africa” and stresses the lack of liquidity in the provinces.
Morrisson, “Monnaie et finances dans l’Empire byzantin Xe–XIVe sie
`cle,” 294–95; N. Oikonom-
ides, “Se poio
´tan ekcrhmatisme
´nh h mesobuzantinh
´Ú Timh
´ston M. I. Manou-
´ka (Rethymnon, 1994), 2:363–70. Hendy rejects a priori such an approach. Without entirely dis-
missing hagiographical writings, he excludes any independent use of them on account of their
unreliability: “The availability and utilization of coin was subject to such wide extremes of variation to render any generalisation derived from . . . the totting up of particular hagiographical cases
to be virtually meaningless” (Studies, 14–15).
H. Saradi, “Evidence of Barter Economy in the Documents of Private Transactions,BZ 88
(1995): 405–18.
M. Metcalf has analyzed evidence from Balkan excavations.
Such differences and
variations over time and space should, in any case, not serve as a pretext for giving up
all attempts at considerations of a more general nature. Of course, as K. Hopkins re-
calls in his study of tax and commercial exchanges in the Roman Empire, figures
should be used with the utmost caution and our method should aim only at establish-
ing a “matrix of possibilities.
Though the matrix proposed in this book (see A. E.
Laiou, “The Byzantine Economy: An Overview,” 1146–47) offers only hypotheses,
these are interdependent, and any variation in one of these parameters automatically
modifies the others.
The level of monetization of a given economy is defined as the commercialized per-
centage of the GDP, or gross domestic product (Y
/Y), not to be confused with the level
of liquidity, understood as the ratio M/Y (Y being the total GDP, whether monetized or
not), with M being understood here as M1 in the sense of metallic money alone, Byzan-
tium having known neither paper money, nor M2, meaning quasi-coins of various du-
ration, in the absence of true fixed-term deposits of significant size. Although forms of
bank accounts certainly had existed in Byzantium at various periods, they were very
probably deposits on a current account and may be included within the classic concep-
tion of M1 defined by liquidity. There is not much difference between levels of moneti-
zation and of liquidity, when the velocity of circulation (monetary flow/stock or transac-
tions/M1) is reduced to an annual periodicity, which was certainly the case in certain
sectors of the Byzantine economy. In fact, if one allows as we do Y
/Y 20% of GDP),
and assuming an annual periodicity for transactions, one could well obtain M/GDP
0.5. On the other hand, it is more probable that this annual periodicity was valid only
forthe monetized part of the agricultural GDP (Y
agr 26% of the GDP) and that
the velocity of circulation was four times higher forthe monetized part of the non-
agricultural GDP (Y
non-agr 20% of GDP), so the overall average periodicity of
monetary transactions was on the order of 1.5
and the liquidity level was only two-
thirds of the monetization level (M/Y 0.67 Y
/Y or 0.31).
The viscosity of monetary circulation in rural zones was obviously connected to the
seasonal cycle of payments linked to grain and grape harvests, as well as to the concen-
tration of monetary transactions and tax payments in September. This is demonstrated
by the typikon of Pakourianos for the Bachkovo monastery, which prescribes that the
rogai will not be paid each year in September “the moment when all the returns are
made,” but, “in order to avoid the brothers having to travel far to make their purchases,
the roga will be paid on Easter Sunday, since that is the date set for the fair held at the
gates of the monastery, at which everyone can easily find what they need.” Thus the
monastery’s cash reserves remained blocked for six months of the year. It was this
948 CE
Hendy, Studies, 284–304, esp. 299–304; J. Durliat, “L’e
´tatbyzantin et l’e
´conomie mone
in Hahn, Moneta (as above, note 10), 193–94 and 197–98; Metcalf, South-Eastern Europe (as above,
note 68).
K. Hopkins, “Taxes and Trade in the Roman Empire (200
400),JRS 70 (1980): 101–25.
26.25 120 0.25 31.25. Assuming a total monetary GDP of 46.25, the resulting velocity
of circulation would be 1.48 (46.25/31.25). On this and what follows, see A. E. Laiou, “The Byzantine
Economy: An Overview,EHB 1153–55.
seasonal pattern that constituted the contrast between the countryside and the urban
zones with their hinterlands, where exchanges of a less fluctuating nature persisted
throughout the year.
The American economist R. W. Goldsmith has proposed an estimate for the level of
monetization during the early Roman Empire. He assigns it a maximum of 50% (“it is
unlikely to have been as high as one-half”), relying notably on his own estimates for
India at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Other estimates relating to the pro-
portion of revenues destined to autoconsumption in the underdeveloped economies
of the twentieth century offer clues that point the same way: from 65% to 60% in the
less advanced economies of the Sahel, 50% in the Ivory Coast, and 35% in Senegal ca.
1960, a similar figure to that observed in France ca. 1750. The monetization level of
46% for the whole Byzantine economy at the height of its prosperity proposed here
(p. 1154) is consistent with these figures. It certainly covers very diverse situations re-
flecting, for instance, the 8–40% variation in the percentage of monetary specie in the
private fortunes mentioned above or the proportion of expenses in coin for an institu-
tion such as the Bachkovo monastery. The annual expenses in coin envisaged by Greg-
oryPakourianos (the monks rogai, i.e., 761 nomismata and distributions of 222 nomis-
mata, i.e., 983 nomismata or 13
pounds) are estimated at around 20 pounds by
P. L emerle to take account of the unquantifiable wages of the misthioi, lighting, the
upkeep of buildings, and sundry expenses. Estimates for expenses in kind can be made
using prices that we know: using quantities similar to those given for the annual rations
envisaged by Attaleiates for his foundation (24 measures of wine, 24 measures of wheat,
3 modioi of dry legumes, 1 nomisma of oil), the food for fifty-one monks, guests, and
six unspecified novices, plus food for the poor and travelers, the overall quantities for
whichare set in chapter 29 of the typikon, would have amounted to 79 pounds of gold
Expenses paid in coin and the value of expenses paid in kind were on
theorderof1:4, with monetary payments representing 20% of total expenses of foun-
dations whose revenues were mainly agricultural. This approximation does not en-
tirely contradict the maximum value proposed (pp. 1154–55: ca. 35%—26.
theframework of my hypotheses.
The liquidity ratios noted above have led me to propose values that would have
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 949
Ed. P. Gautier, “Le typikon du se
´baste Gre
´goire Pakourianos,REB 42 (1984): 68; P. Lemerle,
Cinq e
´tudes sur le XIe sie
`cle byzantin (Paris, 1977), 143; M. Hendy “The Gornoslav Hoard, the Emperor
Frederick I, and the Monastery of Bachkovo,” in Studies in Numismatic Method Presented to Philip Grier-
son, ed. C. N. L. Brooke et al. (Cambridge, 1983), 179–91. For an analysis of the seasonal nature of
monetary circulation in rural zones, of the monetization of the countryside in the 13th century, and
the contrast with the towns in the West, see Spufford, Money, 382–86.
R. W. Goldsmith, “An Estimate of the Size and Structure of the National Product of the Early
Roman Empire,Review of Income and Wealth 30.3 (1984): 263–88; C. Morrisson, “Monnaie et finances
dans l’Empire byzantin,” in Hommes et richesses (as above, note 77), 2:294–95.
Lemerle, Cinq e
´tudes, 190–91. Little is known about prices for dried legumes, but the data for
Edessa cited in E. Patlagean, Pauvrete
´conomique et pauvrete
´sociale a
`Byzance (Paris, 1977), 408, show a
ratio to wheat ranging from 1:1 (lentils) to 1:1.1 (beans) and 1:3 (chickpeas). The average adopted
here is 1:2. The same ratio of 1:1 applies to wheat and lacano
´spermo" in Egypt in the 4th century
(Bagnall, Currency and Inflation, 64–65).
varied in Byzantium between a maximum 30% in the most monetized regions, during
the most monetized periods, and 15% during other periods. Taking into account the
overall average velocity of circulation proposed above (1.5), these liquidity ratios corre-
spond well to a monetization level of 45% comparable to that proposed by our matrix.
As discussed below, despite the strong spatial and temporal variations in the diffusion
of the coinage, money was ubiquitous in the economic life of Byzantium.
What part did public money play in this monetary circulation? The rate of global
taxation put forward in this model (21.25%) corresponds to a monetary levy of 17.8%.
Taking into account a maximum monetization level of 46.25% in the most prosperous
period of Byzantium’s economic history and the assumed velocity of circulation, the
implication is that taxes represented 57% of all coins in circulation (17.8/31.2 0.57)
and 38% of the monetary supply when one estimates that a thirdatleast of thelatter
was immobilized by hoarding.
Distribution and Hoarding of Byzantine Coins: Monetary Circulation in the Empire
Levels of Circulation and Money Use Foralong time now, levels of coinage use have
been described in terms of a hierarchy that reflects the scale of the revenues them-
selves, and even of society. Three levels have been distinguished by P. Spufford for
Europe at the turn of the fourteenth century: the gold of the aristocracy, officials, and
great merchants; the large silver coins for the highest wages; and the small silver coins,
especially the black money (billon), for the minor expenses of everyday life and alms-
giving. At that time, the difference in value between the first of these denominations
and the last was on the order of 1 to 1,000, a constant that applies nowadays to a
hundred-dollar bill and a dime and an order of magnitude that applied more or less
to Byzantium during its most highly monetized periods.
The circulation of money in Byzantium followed a pattern similar in most respects
to that of the medieval West.
Thus the distributions made by St. John the Almsgiver
during the famine of 613 ranged from one pound (72 solidi) for bishops to 6 nomis-
mata for priests and deacons, 2 nomismata for clerics and chanters, and finally, to the
small copper coinage (ajrgu
´rion ti kai
teron ke
During another
950 CE
This seems very high. If, on the other hand, the tax rate of 23% on gross agricultural production
represents only a theoretical maximum, and the real tax rate was lower, as I tend to think, and suppos-
ing a real tax rate on the order of 15%, then the implications of the model are as follows: public
revenues derived from agriculture, 0.15 75 11.25; public revenues in coin derived from agricul-
ture, 0.8 11.25 9.2; public revenues from other sources, in coin 0.20 20 4; total public
revenues in coin 13. Thismeans that the total tax revenues in coin now represent no more than
around 42% of the currency in circulation (13/31.2 41.7) and scarcely 28% of the money stocks
(0.66 41.7 27.5).
Forthe 6th–7th centuries, see Patlagean, Pauvrete
´conomique, 342–409. For the West ca. 1400
and its three levels of coin and credit, see Spufford, Money, 319–38; and the famous study by J.
Meuvret, “Circulation mone
´taire et utilisation e
´conomique de la monnaie dans la France du XVIe et
du XVIIe sie
`cle,” in Etudes d’histoire e
´conomique, Cahiers des Annales 32 (Paris, 1971), 127–37.
E. Lappa-Zizicas, “Un e
`de la ViedeS.Jean l’Aumo
ˆnier,AB 88.3–4 (1970): 265–78. In
period of high monetization, the twelfth century, Ptochoprodromos compares the he-
goumenos, with his assets worth 10 pounds in gold, counting his hyperpyra and the poor
monk counting his beans, unable to buy himself some caviar, if only for a tetarteron, or
to give a “follis” (meaning a stamenon?) in alms.
Gold was indeed the principal instrument for ordinary and extraordinary imperial
payments (rogai, tributes or foreign gifts, payments for the palace or for the various
grades of provincial administrators), all of which helped put it into circulation.
ever, theresult was to distribute gold among the lower ranks of society, not only soldiers
but also artisans, peasants, hermits and holy persons, prostitutes, and so on,
though low sums were involved, a few pieces or divisional coins, and only on very rare
In the absence of these divisions of the gold coinage, which disappeared,
as we have seen, during the eighth century, the other coins of precious metal (silver,
then “electrum,” that artificial alloy of gold and silver) or billon, furnished the neces-
sary change and circulated more commonly than the nomisma. Evidence for this is
provided by the miliaresia that were taken along during expeditions to enable the
emperor to tip the guards of the Scholae, pages, members of the hetaireia, and oth-
and by the use of such pieces to buy a fine fish in the market at Constantinople.
Further evidence is provided by their occasional presence among archaeological finds.
Naturally, copper coins are best represented among such accumulations of lost coins,
and these are the least hoardedofall.
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 951
the 4th century, argyrion designated (PRyl IV, 607, and POxy XXIV, 2729) a bronze coin that was
originally silverplated (nummus). The term was applied next to the nummus and eventually came to
mean, generically, early Byzantine small change made of copper: C. Morrisson, “Le
´conomie mone
taire byzantine,RN 29 (1987): 248 n. 3.
See the satire against the hegoumenoi in Ptochoprodromos: Einfu
¨hrung, kritische Ausgabe, deutsche
¨bersetzung, Glossar, ed. H. Eideneier (Cologne, 1991), 4.5.85–96: Aujto
`" yhfi
´zei uJpe
´rpura kai
´la, su
´zei" fa
´bata ...kejsu
`oujk hjgo
´rase" ka
`n tarterou' cabia
´rin . . . aujto
´ka ke
`kthtai li
´tra" crusa
`" loga
´rin . . . su
`d∆ oujde
´llin ke
´kthsai, na
´sh" sth
`n yuch
´n sou.
M. Hendy, “Economy and State in Late Rome and Early Byzantium: An Introduction,” in Econ-
omy (as above, note 7), art. 1; idem, Studies, 173–223; G. Dagron and C. Morrisson, “Le kente
dans les sources byzantines,RN, 6th ser., 17 (1975): 145–62; J.-P. Callu, “Le ‘centenarium’ et l’enri-
chissement mone
´taire au Bas-Empire,Kte
´ma 3 (1978): 301–16. Nikephoros III had given sekreta
worth several talants ( polytalanta)toEudokia Makrembolitissa, and, according to Yahya of Antioch, a
monastery with an income of “3 qintars of dinars” (21,600 nomismata) had been given to Romanos
III’s first wife.
Patlagean, Pauvrete
´conomique, 350. See also C. Morrisson and J.-C. Cheynet, “Prices and Wages
in the Byzantine World,EHB 859–69.
W. T. Tr e adgold, The Byzantine Revival, 780–842 (Stanford, Calif., 1988), 36–38, concludes,
“practically every adult Byzantine used coined money occasionally, if only to pay his taxes....Since
soldiers were settled all over the empire, even in the outlying areas, paying them in cash put money
in wider circulation.”
De cerimoniis aulae byzantinae, ed. J. J. Reiske, 2 vols. (Bonn, 1829–30), 1:471, 473. On the distinc-
tion between (gold) kentenaria and miliaresia in this text and others, see Dagron and Morrisson,
`narion,” 152–53.
I. Hausherr, ViedeSyme
´on le nouveau the
´ologien, cited by Oikonomides, “Baqmo
´,” 368. Common
fish, such as mackerel, cost far less and were sold 11 to the “follis” (tetarteron): see Morrisson and
Cheynet, “Prices,” 842.
However, it would be wrong to imagine that these threelevels were kept neatly su-
perimposed and separate: both the system fortax collection and private exchanges
made it necessary to pass from one to another. Through the mechanism of the chara-
gma, evidence for which is found in the Palaia Logarike at the end of the eleventh cen-
tury, the state required tax to be paid in the superior nomisma once it amounted to
more than 8 miliaresia (i.e., 1 nomisma for
nomisma, 2 nomismata for 1
mata, etc.), with the taxpayer receiving the change (antistrophe)inlow-value currency.
In this form, the process seems to go back to the eighth century,
though a similar
principle was certainly applied to taxes paid in coin during the early Byzantine period.
The system played an essential role in promoting the circulation of money and the
recycling of coins during the entire period studied here. Although we have no specific
information, the implication is that there were fixed limits to the sums that could be
discharged using inferior denominations.
Because he had to pay his tax in gold, the taxpayer, having set aside some silver or
copper coins, then had to resort to the services of the money changers, just as the
shopkeepers, officials, and landowners who owned gold coins did, in order to obtain
small change for their minor expenses. Two definitions are topical. The Glossai nomikai
explain the originally Latin term kollekta
´rio" as oJ ajrguromoibo
toi oJ ke
´rma ajnti
´rou ajllaso
´meno" trapezi
´th", oJ ajrguropra
´th", while the later definition by Theo-
phylaktos of Ohrid, which consists mainly of explaining the obsolete terms kollybistai
and noummoi rather than the profession, is well known: Kollubistai
´eijsin oiJ ta
´smata pwlou'nte" h
toi tou
`" nou
´mmou"Ú ko
´llubo" ga
´getai to
´misma par∆
Ellhsin, o
JRwmai'oi nou'mmon ojnoma
´zousin (Those who sell small coins or noummoi are
kollybistai; forthe [ancient] Greeks give the name kollybos to the small coin that the
Romans call a noummos).
It was indeed a case of moving from everyday coins (nou
or ke
´rma)tothe intermediary currency, silver according to the Glossai, and even to gold,
always in accordance with an official scale.
In the long term, the constant features of
the monetization process outlined here apply more to the initial and final periods (6th–
7th, 11th–15th centuries) than to the beginning of the middle Byzantine period (8th–
10th centuries) and must be refined, depending on time and place.
952 CE
Svoronos, Cadastre; Hendy, “Coinage,” 60–61, and Studies, 285–87; Morrisson, “La Logarike
´forme mone
´taire et re
´forme fiscale sous Alexis Ier Comne
`ne,” in Monnaie (as above, note 20), art.
6, pp. 442–43; Oikonomides, “De l’impo
ˆtdedistribution a
`propos du premier
cadastre byzantin,ZRVI 26 (1987): 10, and Oikonomides, “Role of the Byzantine State,” 1030.
PG 123:1197B, cited by P. Gautier, “L’e
´dit d’Alexis Ier sur la re
´forme du clerge
´,” REB 31
[1973]: 174.
The Logarike alludes to this scale. See also edict 16 of Valentinian III (445), which fixed the
purchase and sale price for the solidus at 7,200–7,000 nummi. Does a memory of such indexes, which
would have been posted in inscriptions at the sites where such transactions occurred, feature in the
passage of the Parastaseis concerning the Strategion, where the “composition of the gold and silver
was represented on marble inscriptions”? jE n d e
`tv' mikrv' Strathgi
´libdo" polu
`" crhmati
´zei . . .
´ou kai
´ou dia
´nwn grafw'n poi
´hsi"Ú Par astaseis Syntomoi chronikai, ed. T.
Preger (Munich, 1898), chap. 24.
The Sources and Their Interpretation There are two major sources for the study of
monetary circulation in antiquity and the Middle Ages: documentary evidence, both
textual and in the form of inscriptions, and the coins themselves. The former presents
problems of interpretation (such as identifying the coins that are mentioned,
distinction between real money and money of account, etc.); above all, it is very dis-
persed and not always well preserved. Nevertheless, the documentary evidence allows
two major groups to be distinguished: on the one hand, the early Byzantine period,
with a few inscriptions from the sixth century such as the edict of Anastasios, the tariffs
of Adana and Cagliari, and the corpus of Egyptian papyri including, to a lesser extent,
those of Ravenna; on the other, the late period (11th–15th centuries), which includes
the acts of Athos, Patmos, and others, as well as the wealth of documentation in Ital-
ian archives.
Archaeological evidence as provided by coin finds is more coherent, though it is
affected by a degree of bias. There are two reasons for this: the various laws in modern
states that serve to encourage or discourage the dissemination of information and have
been, or are, implemented in very different ways, and the fortuitous distribution of
finds. Numismatists classify these finds as, respectively, hoards (collections of coins that
have been deposited intentionally, corresponding to the classical legal definition,
“vetus quaedam depositione pecuniae cuius non extat memoria ut iam dominum non
although here the essential element is the absence of a known owner); iso-
lated finds (meaning coins found by chance in a variety of places); and archaeological
finds (meaning all the coins discovered on a single site). These three categories some-
times overlap. Archaeologists can discover isolated finds and hoards on the same site,
as was the case at Corinth and Athens; and chance finds that are concentrated in a
specific place (such as a river crossing, a church,
oraplace of pilgrimage) are inten-
tional, not haphazard, deposits and are thus not related to hoards, which were in-
tended to be recovered, nor to isolated losses on a particular site, archaeological or oth-
Hoards (emergency hoards only, not savings hoards) reveal the composition of the
coinages in different metals at a given time and place, whereas site finds tend, rather,
to provide evidence about fluctuations in the production and supply of the currency,
unless a detailed study has been published setting the coins in their stratigraphical
context and enabling them to be classified according to levels and periods of circula-
tion. In fact, the average delay between the issue and loss of a coin is such that site
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 953
There is no systematic catalogue of the names of coins in Byzantium, but see DOC 3:44–61,
4:55–58, and 5:19–32.
See Morrisson and Cheynet, “Prices,” passim.
CIC, Dig
Not all church finds can be ascribed to voluntary deposits, such as offerings to the Confession
of St. Peter in Rome. They were often the result of losses by the faithful and are thus related to site
finds, such as at St. Polyeuktos (Sarac
¸hane). Recently, this category of finds has aroused interest: cf.
Trouvailles mone
´taires d’e
´glises, ed. O. F. Dubuis and S. Frey-Kupper (Lausanne, 1995).
finds and isolated coins are indeed representative of the monetary circulation of the
time, within the scale of a century, which justifies including them in statistical analyses.
This form of documentation, its interpretation, cartography, and methods of statisti-
calevaluation were all developed extensively during the decades after World War II,
in line with the publication of new research.
However, with the exception of D. M.
Metcalf ’s work on the Balkans between 820 and 1396,
we have no synthesis of this
abundant and very dispersed literature. Given the bulk of the documentation, the
survey presented here is necessarily more than sketchy. For each of the three great
periods under consideration, it attempts to compare the documentary evidence, where
it exists, with that of the finds. I amwell aware of its imperfections.
The Seventh Century: The “Dark Ages” and the “Break” in Continuity (602–820)
At theturnofthe sixth and seventh centuries, money continued to circulate within a
space that was integrated in part, but only in part. A hoard found in northern Syria
and dated to the beginning of the 590s could still contain bronze coins of Maurice
from the main eastern mints (Constantinople, Nikomedeia, Kyzikos, and Antioch) and
from Thessalonike, but the African, Italian, and Dalmatian (Salona Split) mints are
represented only by older pieces, witnessing to the mixed coinage of Justinians reign.
Similar examples can be found in the western part of the Aegean: at Athens, in the
Dipylon hoard, buried after 583, the coins of Tiberius and Maurice are still derived
from Constantinople, Thessalonike, and Nikomedeia, but there, too, the examples
from Antioch and Sicily go back to Justin II or Justinian; at Histria, a little hoard dated
to ca. 601 contains issues of Justin II and Maurice from Constantinople, Nikomedeia,
and Antioch; at Horges
¸ti,afurther hoard covering the same reigns adds Thessalonike
and Antioch to these mints. All of which serves to accentuate the trend toward a mone-
tary circuit that functioned within two large regional groups in the East and the West
(themselves possibly divided into more or less autonomous and even closed zones, e.g.,
Africa, Italy, Egypt) and that was already perceptible in the second half of the reign of
Justinian. Was this trend due to the reduced mobility of troops, as compared with the
period of the reconquest, or to decreasing interregional exchanges?
These phenomena must have had a joint effect because pottery experts have ob-
served that exchanges between the two parts of the Mediterranean began to decrease,
starting in the 550s, and that there was a tendency toward autoconsumption, meaning
mainly localprovisioning on sites such as Ostia and Carthage.
However, this did not
involve a complete caesura as is demonstrated, notably, by the persistent penetration
954 CE
See P. Grierson, “The Interpretation of Coin Finds,” (1), (2), NC (1965), (1966) (Later Medieval
Numismatics [London, 1979], arts. 21 and 22); Coins and the Archaeologist, ed. J. Casey and R. Reece,
(Oxford, 1974), passim—notably the article by J. P. C. Kent, “Interpreting Coin Finds,” 184–200—
and J. Casey, Understanding Ancient Coins (London, 1986), 67.
Coinage in South-eastern Europe (London, 1979).
S. Tortorella, “La ceramica fine da mensa africana dal IV al VII sec.,” in Societa
`romana e impero
tardoantico, ed. A. Giardina (Rome, 1986), 3:211–25; C. Panella, “Gli scambi nel Mediterraneo
occidentale,” in Hommes et richesses (as above, note 78), 1:138–41.
of Byzantine coins into Gaul, parallel to the arrival of African and Oriental pottery
there and in Italy, albeit at a modest rate. The overall picture must be adjusted and
regional exceptions stressed, such as that of eastern Sicily and its sphere of influence,
to which I shall return.
The increasing fragmentation of the Byzantine-Mediterranean complex preceded
theseventh century and the Arab conquest. However, the main phenomenon relates
to the collapse of the overall level of monetary finds in sites, wherever they are located.
This general collapse is summed up spectacularly by the histograms that D. M. Metcalf
drew up for the first time in 1960, here corrected or completed by reference to other
(Fig. 6). These histograms were established by summing up the number of
bronze coins discovered and arranged in phases, and then by dividing this number by
thenumber of years for each of them, thus producing an annual frequency index. The
comparison of sites where the absolute number of pieces found can be very different
should, as a general rule, affect this index by a coefficient that takes account of this
variable (the total number of coin finds/1,000). On the other hand, the statistics have
not been able to take account of the very variable purchasing power of low-value cur-
rencies, suggesting that the annual frequency index could somehow be “deflated” by
converting the total number of examples into their “bronze value” (each example be-
ing given its value in nummi: one follis 40, a half-follis 20, etc.) or into the “gold
value” (by converting the “bronze value” into solidi according to estimates for the
gold:silver ratio during the period under consideration). A conversion of this kind was
attempted for the finds from the American excavation at Carthage, and the experience
demonstrated that the annual index in bronze value indicates the periods of inflation
(the end of the 6th and the mid-7th centuries), but the variations in the gold index
run along the same lines as those in the base nondeflated index. The similar conversion
practiced on the monetary finds in Dobrudja is more precise insofar as it adopts a
chronological breakdown that follows the mutations of the bronze currencies; it en-
ables the importance of the peak observed under Justin II to be relativized but not
Thus we can justify retaining this nondeflated index on a provisional ba-
sis, concentrating only on its relative evolution.
Everywhere, in the eastern part of the empire, in Asia Minor and in the Balkans,
the last issues that are attested in still significant quantities are those of Constans II; a
modest revival did not occur before the first half of the ninth century. We are well
within the 668–874 limits, very precisely with regard to the drop and a bit beforehand
forthe recovery, that D. Zakythinos fixed in 1966, on the basis of archaeological finds,
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 955
D. M. Metcalf, “The Currency of Byzantine Coins in Syrmia and Slavonia,HBN 4 (1960):
429–44, corrected for Antioch by adding finds from the Arab period (Fig. 6.15) and supplemented
by those of Aphrodisias, Ephesos, Pergamon, Priene, Constantinople, Tu
˘rnovo, Preslav, and Pernik,
including those from sites in Albania, Calabria, Apulia, and Sicily.
C. Morrisson, “Coin Finds in Vandal and Byzantine Carthage: A Provisional Assessment,” in
The Circus and a Byzantine Cemetery at Carthage, ed. J. H. Humphrey (Ann Arbor, 1988), 1:423–35.
G. Poenaru-Bordea, “Proble
`mes historiques de la Dobroudja (VIe–VIIe sie
`cles) . . . ,” in Guey and
Hackens, Statistique et numismatique (as above, note 73), 365–77.
forthe large gap (“la grande bre
`che”) of the seventh to ninth centuries. The evidence
of site finds is indisputable; since isolated lost coins are involved, the lacunae cannot
be explained, as has sometimes been attempted, by Theophilos’ monetary reform,
whichwould have withdrawn the earlier bronze coins, or by a damnatio memoriae of
iconoclastic coins. Similarly, on the sites, the relatively important number of seventh-
century bronze coins is not directly linked to the insecurity of the age, as it is in the
caseofhoards. Of course, the material gathered never does relate to the whole of a
site, and we do not always have continuous data for the merchants’ zone that is most
likely to provide coins.
Nevertheless it may be supposed that, though a more exhaus-
tive collection would improve this general picture in important ways, it would not fun-
damentally alter it.
Afew examples will sum up the well-known and frequently commented on monetary
gap that reveals the process of decline and impoverishment whereby “towns” were
reduced to the role of places of refuge: at Ankyra, nothing between Constans II and a
single follis of Leo IV; at Aphrodisias (Fig. 6.1), no coins between Constans II and
Theophilos; at Pergamon, none between 715 and 820 (Fig. 6.2); at Kenchreai, nothing
between Constans II and Leo VI; and in the Albanian finds (Fig. 6.3), no bronze pieces
between 668 and 802.
The rapid and accentuated decline in monetary circulation
was accompanied by a retraction in the range of its diffusion, a geographical retraction
that shrank faster than the empire’s frontiers. Thus the relative ubiquity of the coinage
until the end of the sixth or the beginning of the seventh century in the Balkans, and
until the mid-seventh century in Asia Minor—though several finds from the reign of
Constans II at Sardis (Fig. 6.4) and Athens (Fig. 6.5), for instance, must be related to
military expenditure and the cantonment of troops
contrasts with the very small
number of places that have disclosed coins issued between 668 and 820.
The situation appears to have been less serious in Constantinople, going by the un-
fortunately very limited evidence provided by excavations in the Hippodrome, which
have not been adequately published, and those at Sarac
¸hane. At St. Polyeuktos (Fig.
6.6), in fact, Hendy stresses both the absence of any diminution of or interruption in
the monetary series, so strong a feature of provincial sites, and the “extraordinary
representation” of issues of the eighth and ninth centuries. This numismatic contrast
between the capital and the provinces is only to be expected; Metcalf had drawn atten-
tion to it as early as 1967. It corresponds with the impression provided by the texts,
whichhas often been stressed, as much, for instance, by W. Brandes with regard to
Constantine V and the period as a whole, as by Oikonomides, who contrasts the gifts
956 CE
See comments by Foss, Ephesus, and “Sardis”, or D. M. Metcalf (“How Extensive Was the Issue
of Folles during the Years 775–820?” Byzantion 37 [1967]: 277 and 304) regarding Corinth, where
theexcavated area includes the 9th–10th-century plateia, though not the slopes of the Acrocorinth,
where the8th-century merchant area was probably located, and Athens, where the location of the
urban center in the 8th–9th centuries is not known.
C. Foss, “The Persians in Asia Minor and the End of Antiquity,EHR 90 (1975): 721–47;
W. Brandes, Sta
¨dte, 146–49; Dagron, “Urban Economy,” 393–96.
C. Morrisson, “Byzance au VIIe sie
`cle: Le te
´moignage de la numismatique,” in Byzance: Hom-
mage a
´Stratos, ed. N. Stratos (Athens, 1986), 1:149–63; Hendy, Studies, 641, with references.
or loans in kind made by Philaretos in Paphlagonia with the almsgiving in coin that
was practiced in Constantinople during the same period.
However, on a few sites in better-favored localities, one can observe clues pointing to
the persistence of exchanges, though certainly on a very reduced scale: in the German
excavations at Magnesia on the Meander, there are no bronze coins of between 668 and
969 and just one miliaresion of Constantine V; at Priene (Fig. 6.7), halfway through an
equally long lacuna, one miliaresion of Leo III and a follis of Leo V; at Ephesos (Fig.
6.8), nothing between Constans II and Leo VI, except one miliaresion of Constan-
tine V found near the temple of Domitian;
at Sardis, only 11 coins for the period
668–886 (2 bronze coins of Constantine IV, 2 of Leo IV, 1 of Leo V, 2 of Michael II, 2
of Theophilos, 2 of Basil I), and a tremissis of Justinian II (Fig. 6.4). Similar markers
have been found at the agora in Athens, where, between 668 and 820 (Fig. 6.5), all the
reigns are represented except those of Nikephoros I and Michael I, and at Corinth,
where afew examples from most of the reigns are listed, between the 96 bronze coins
of Constans II and the 161 coins of Theophilos (Fig. 6.9). The presence of miliaresia
among these haphazard losses has not been sufficiently stressed: nevertheless, it marks
therelatively important role played by the new coin. At Athens, of 138 bronze coins
dated to 668–820—only 54 if one excludes the 61 coins of Philippikos and the 23 coins
of Leo III, which are considered correctly by Charanis to constituteaspecial case—
one notes the presence of 8 folles of Syracuse (5 of Constantine IV, 1 of Justinian II, 1
of Leo III, 1 of Constantine V), evidence of the persistence of the port’s links with
Sicily and of the former’s traditional role as a stopping-off point along the route that
connected the island with the capital.
The situation in Sicily and Byzantine Italy has remained curiously outside the debate
on the demonetization of Byzantium during the Dark Ages. This was not surprising
in the 1960s, when the documentation was still very little known. Nowadays, Italian
archaeologists and historians have succeeded in making great progress in this direc-
tion. The general picture, while still imperfect, is nonetheless clear: in eastern Sicily,
notably, the evolution of the index, calculated on the basis of nearly a thousand coins
mostly bronze—derived from finds and local collections, is not dissimilar to that in the
capital (Fig. 6.10). Certainly, the period between 668 and 811 was, here too, a time of
retreat, but the contraction was far from total, and the intensity of the circulation is
nearly comparable to that in the Justinianic period.
The growing regionalization of
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 957
Metcalf, “Folles,” esp. 304–5; Sarac
¸hane: M. F. Hendy, “The Coins,” in Excavations at Sarac
in Istanbul, ed. R. M. Harrison, vol. 1 (Princeton, N.J.–Washington, D.C., 1986), 278–373; Brandes,
¨dte, 147–49; Oikonomides “Baqmo
`,” 365.
Foss (Ephesus, app. 6) stresses that coin finds, insofar as there have been any (as seems likely) in
excavations undertaken in the periphery of the city, have not been recorded.
ForItaly, see the assessment— with a detailed bibliography and list of finds prior to 1992, based
on numerous data, from both unpublished sources and scattered publications—compiled by E. A.
Arslan, “La circolazione monetaria (secoli V–VIII),” in La storia dell’alto medioevo italiano (VI–X secolo)
alla luce dell’archeologia (Siena, 1994), 497–519, and, also under his direction, “Italia medievale,” in A
Survey of Numismatic Research, 1990–1995 (Berlin, 1997), 447–68. For Sicily, G. Guzzetta, “Appunti di
circolazione monetaria nella Sicilia Orientale bizantina,” in La Sicilia rupestre nel contesto delle civilta
thecirculation of bronze coins, observed above, is very clear: on the other hand, in
spite of the abundant local production of gold coins, preserved hoards, such as those
of Milazzo or Capo Schiso
`(Naxos), buried ca. 683 and 797, are uniquely composed of
nomismata of Constantinople.The latter may reflect a preference for coins of better
fineness over the debased coins of Syracuse, as well as the island’s still active commer-
cialrelations with the East.
In the theme of Calabria, though undoubtedly to a lesser degree than in Sicily—the
sample is smaller by about half in terms of absolute value—one can observe a greater
resilience of the monetary circulation in the years 668–881 than was the case to the
east of the empire: the total absence of finds is limited to the years 775–802. The
Sicilian mint supplied gold and bronze coins whose circulation was limited at first to
Reggio and its immediate hinterland. However, the revival is observed already under
LeoV(813–820) and affects a larger zone.
The index (Fig. 6.14) evolves in part
conversely to the one for Sicily, showing a very modest rise in the seventh century and
a much more marked one in the ninth; it illustrates the way the southern part of the
peninsula, especially Calabria, acted as a zone of refuge from the Arab advance into
Sicily. In Rome, in the Crypta Balbi excavations, a few solidi, silver coins, and numer-
ous bronze coins of 30 nummi were found in a well-stratified seventh-century context.
Nearly all the copper coins were of different dies, and the presence of a few little
Byzantino-papal silver issues as well as the existence of tesserae in the names of Popes
Gregory III and Zacharias points to a persistent demand for low-value currency in the
At Ravenna, prior to the Lombard conquest, the excavations at Classe and the
collections in the museum bear witness to a retraction of the low-value currency and
of links with the East, while also pointing to the maintenance and even the develop-
ment of relations with Rome and Sicily.
Recovery and Expansion (ca. 820–1204) The frequency with which isolated or site finds
occur increases perceptibly from the first half of the ninth century; over and above
their regional variations (Fig. 6), the coherent nature of these evolutions has definitely
958 CE
mediterranee: Atti del sesto Convegno internazionale di studio sulla civilta
`rupestre medioevale nel Mezzogiornia
d’Italia Catania, Pantalica, Ispica, 7–12 settembre 1981), ed. C. D. Fonseca, (Galatina, 1986), 121–33;
D. Castrizio, “Circolazione monetaria bizantina nella Sicilia Orientale,” Sicilia Archeologica 24.76–77
(1991): 67–75; G. Manganaro, “La collezione numismatica della Zelantea di Acireale,Memorie e Re-
ndiconti dell’Accademia di Scienze, Lettere e Belle Arti degli Zelanti e dei Dafnici di Acireale 10 (1970): 273–318.
G. Guzzetta, “Per la Calabria bizantina: Primo censimento dei dati numismatici,” in Calabria
bizantina: Istituzioni civile e topografia storica (Reggio Calabria, 1986), 251–80. The data collected therein
are the source for Fig. 6 (coin hoards have been excluded).
A. Rovelli, “La Crypta Balbi: Ireperti numismatici,” in La moneta nei contesti archeologici, Atti
dell’incontro di studio, Roma (1986), Istituto Italiano di numismatica, Studi e Materiali 2 (Rome
1989), 49–95; eadem, “La circolazione monetaria a Roma nei secoli VII e VIII: Nuovi dati per la
storia economica di Roma nell’alto medioevo,” in Roma medievale: Aggiornamenti, ed. P. Delogu (Flor-
ence, 1998), 79–91.
E. Ercolani-Cocchi, Imperi romano e bizantino: Regni barbarici in Italia attraverso le monete del Museo
Nazionale di Ravenna (Ravenna, 1982); eadem, “La circolazione monetale fra tardoantico e alto me-
dioevo dagli scavi di Villa Clelia,Studi Romagnoli 29 (1978): 367–99.
been revealed, allaying the doubts that have been voiced, for some time now, about
thenew takeoff of money production and demand for money that began at that time.
The main origin of this phenomenon is to be sought, as M. Metcalf and M. Hendy
have both stressed, in an imperial initiative and probably in the modification of fiscal
practices such as the revival or the development of the antistrophe.
The measures in
question were not neutral and must have had a chain effect on the economy as a whole.
They could promote the growth of products destined for commercialization, while mil-
itary expenses, which “produced” increased security in the mid- or long-term, also
created conditions favorable to a relative development of the agricultural economy in
general, followed by that of exchanges and of the monetary economy in particular.
The fact that Muslim bronze coins have been found in Corinth, albeit in low numbers,
also points to the role of long-distance trade in this growth.
In the Balkans, according to the evidence of the numismatic documentation that
Metcalf has analyzed in detail, the recovery came in two stages. During the first period
(ca. 820–969), the growth rate was certainly significant but remained moderate, with
theaverage annual index rising from 10 to 41 at Corinth and from 0 to about 7 at
Athens (a rise of respectively 1% and 4% per year; Fig. 6), and the diffusion of coins
continued to be concentrated in the coastal zones. During the second period, which
started in the second half or at the end of the tenth century—969 is a convenient date,
chosen because it marks the beginning of the issue of anonymous folles—the increase
was more marked; at Corinth the index rose from 41 to 54 for the period from 969 to
1034, then to 91 for 1034–81 and even, though with a different denominational struc-
ture, to 126 for 1081–1143 and to 138 for 1143–1204, the respective figures at Athens
being 7, then 13, then 56, with a decline to 33 between 1081 and 1143 and a marked
recovery to 102 until 1204. This period also shows a more extensive diffusion of coins,
since the number of sites outside central Greece to have produced monetary finds for
theyears 969–1056 is twice or three times that for the years 913–969, according to
Metcalf ’s findings.
In spite of this, we do not have a flawless general picture of the use of money. There
are shadowy zones, which serve to confirm clues in the documents about the weak
monetization of some regions, notably Kedrenos’ text on the taxation in kind that
Basil II retained for the Bulgarians after his reconquest, possibly in accordance with
theSlavs’ ancient cultural traditions, which have been frequently emphasized.
The monetization of the Balkans, with the exception of central Greece, the lower
Danube region, and the princely residences and important strongholds of Bulgaria
(Fig. 6.11–13), progressed only slowly in the course of the eleventh century and was
further impeded in the 1030s and 1080s by troubles and incursions, which explains
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 959
Metcalf, South-eastern Europe, 18; M. Hendy, “East and West: Divergent Models of Coinage and
Its Use,” in Il Secolo di Ferro: Mito e realta
`del secolo X (Spoleto, 19–25 aprile 1990) (Spoleto, 1991), 637–79;
Laiou, “Exchange and Trade,” 733–34.
G. C. Miles, “The Circulation of Islamic Coinage of the 8th–12th Centuries in Greece,Congresso
Internazionale di Numismatica Roma, 1961, II, Atti (Rome, 1965), 458–98.
Metcalf, South-eastern Europe.
whythe anonymous A- and B-class folles before 1034 are the best represented. Its real
development came in the twelfth century, when the economic crisis and the military
reversals of the 1070s–1090s, the cause of many emergency burials of precious metals,
had been surmounted.
The details of monetary development in Asia Minor are much less well known. Since
the publication of local collections (Fethiye, Afyon, Sinope, Silifke, Antakya) planned
byafew teams of researchers is still being awaited, there is as yet little if any informa-
tion about discoveries of isolated coin finds or hoards with established provenances.
Thus most of our data are derived from about ten sites, mostly situated in the coastal
zone and its immediate, most highly monetized hinterland, with the exception of Amo-
The recovery in the coastal sites appears to have come later than in the Bal-
kans, with the exception of Ephesos and Sardis. Although not as spectacular as at
Athens, it is no less clear. By keeping to a period when the local currency consisted of
a single denomination, the follis (even though the 11th-century drop in weight consti-
tuted a devaluation), the incidence of finds is multiplied by 3.6 at Ephesos between
969 and 1034, by 4.3 between 969 and 1081, at Pergamon by 5.8 or 10.4 for the same
periods, and doubles at Sardis between 969 and 1081. The abundance of anonymous
folles in the batches of Turkish origin on the European market in the 1960s has not
been quantified, though it serves to confirm the phenomenon. For the twelfth century,
thepredominance in Asia Minor and in Thrace of finds of stamena can be observed,
though no explanation is forthcoming, while in Greece tetartera and half-tetartera
constitute the overwhelming majority.
As emphasized above, the recovery, regardless of its origins, occurred earlier in Italy
than in the rest of the empire since it was felt in Calabria as early as 813. In Capitanata,
to the north of the Ofanto River, it clearly coincided with Basil I’s reconquest and was
manifested with some force. Around Bari and in the south, the continuity was “more
marked, albeit weaker,” according to G. Guzzetta, who is not more specific.
The data
gathered by L. Travaini for the whole of Apulia, starting only in 886 (Fig. 6.15), reveal
alevelcomparable to that in Calabria, even higher with regard to the folles of the
second half of the eleventh century, and due, in her opinion, to military operations or
simply to the Byzantine presence, extended to 1071 instead of 1060. More than any-
thing, I should emphasize the contrast between a Calabria that still looked toward
Sicily, even after the Arab conquest, and an “Ionian” Apulia that was entirely turned
toward Byzantium. In the latter, Constantinopolitan pieces of every kind of metal dom-
inate, as is proven by the documents, together with finds and local collections. The
absence of gold finds, apart from a single nomisma of Basil II in the Ordona hoard
alongside 148 taris of Salerno, is not sufficient to refute all the evidence provided by
archival documents about the use of gold coins, which were indeed real since pains
were taken, in an age of devaluation, to specify their type using a whole set of epi-
960 CE
C. Lightfoot, “The Amorium Project: The 1997 Study Season,” DOP 53 (1999): 338–40.
G. Guzzetta, “Lineamenti di circolazione monetaria nella Puglia Settentrionale,” in La ricerca
archeologica nel territorio garganico (Foggia, 1984), 209–19.
In Calabria, on the other hand, while the Byzantine follis did indeed constitute
the sole local small change, the gold mentioned in documents, notably in the Brebion
of the metropolis published by A. Guillou,
is theSicilian tari, the money of exchange
with the island and, above all, the coin used in the silk trade. It is not surprising to
find zones of circulation overlapping political boundaries; this phenomenon occurs
frequently in frontier regions that served rather to unite than to divide.
The End of the Hegemony and the Penetration of Foreign Money (1204–1453) By the end
of the twelfth century, especially from 1204 on, the political fragmentation of the Byz-
antine world brought about the creation of coinages that were either “national” (in
Trebizond starting in 1222, in Bulgaria starting in 1218, and in Serbia in 1228), colo-
nial, or feudal.
These coins brought about a corresponding reduction in the diffu-
sion of the imperial coinage, which they often copied. This was the case with the imi-
tation stamena and hyperpyra that were struck after 1204 in Constantinople and Thes-
salonike and have been identified by Hendy.
The fact that neither the Latins nor the
Venetians introduced coins in their name or type shows how strong a hold the Byzan-
tine model retained. After an eclipse at the beginning of the century, the hyperpyron
recovered some vitality in the 1230s, as demonstrated by Romanian, Bulgarian, and
Greek hoards. It continued to be fairly widespread until around 1330 and to be men-
tioned in textual sources as late as 1387, even 1402,
though it had not been struck
since 1353. The Venetian gold ducat and its imitations took its place in the long-
distance Aegean trade of the second half of the fourteenth and the fifteenth century;
at Constantinople the gold Venetian coin (to
`crusou'n kai
thereigning coin,
though not the commonest one.
In fact, other Venetian coins had already penetrated the monetary circulation in
Byzantium, including the remaining territories under the empire’s control. Between
1286 and 1374 the Athonite documents refer to hyperpyra that were paid in Venetian
ducats (dia
´twn bennetikw'n)orin“ounces of ducats,”
and hoards confirm the
current use of silver grossi, from Thrace to the Peloponnese from the 1270s to the
mid-fourteenth century.
The shrinkage of the imperial territory in the fourteenth
Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation 961
J.-M. Martin, “Economia naturale ed economia monetaria nell’Itali